Wigan 34-16 Leeds: George Williams shines as Warriors get up and running
Last Updated: 09/02/19 10:08am
Wigan delivered a first Super League win for interim head coach Adrian Lam to wipe out the points that the Warriors were docked for breaching the salary cap.
Friday night's 34-16 round-two win over Leeds Rhinos lifted the reigning champions off the foot of the table and provided them with a timely boost ahead of next week's World Club Challenge clash with Australian premiers Sydney Roosters.
Former Barrow prop Joe Bullock scored his first Super League try as he once more demonstrated his comfort at this level, while former Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker kicked five goals on an accomplished home debut.
The result leaves former Wigan forward Dave Furner still looking for his first win as Rhinos head coach and, to compound his troubles, substitute forward Mikolaj Oledzki was the subject of a biting allegation by Wigan hooker Sam Powell.
The Rhinos' performance was actually a significant improvement on their first-round defeat by Warrington and they were gifted a dream start when left winger Ash Handley collected a ricochet after the ball bounced off the shoulder of his opposite number Tom Davies, inside two minutes.
Leeds had to work a little harder for their second try, as right winger Tom Briscoe kept the ball alive and second rower Brett Ferres proved unstoppable as he charged onto Tui Lolohea's pass.
Lolohea added both conversions as the Rhinos led 12-6 but they were twice undone by the kicking game of Wigan half-backs George Williams and Thomas Leuluai, which produced tries for centre Dan Sarginson and forwards Ben Flower and Joe Greenwood.
When Bullock took a short pass from skipper Sean O'Loughlin to crash through for his try, the game had been transformed by three tries in nine minutes and Hardaker added a third conversion to make it 22-12.
It was, however, a score that flattered the hosts, with referee Ben Thaler missing a knock-on in the build-up to Wigan's first try and bringing back full-back Jack Walker for a harsh forward pass from prop Trent Merrin.
Leeds were full of invention and ought to have made more of a long-range break by Lolohea, who was chased down by Wigan centre Oliver Gildart.
Wigan were forced to switch second rower Wilie Isa to centre on the 200th appearance of his career after losing Sarginson to injury at half-time but they were good enough to consolidate their winning position.
Hardaker stretched the lead to 12 points with a penalty and Davies had a try disallowed before the Warriors made sure of victory with a solo try from a jinking Williams after 67 minutes.
Captain Kallum Watkins quickly replied with a third try for the visitors but Hardaker had the final say when he burst through the Leeds defence to get Liam Farrell away for Wigan's sixth try.
Adrian Lam believes sealing a victory ahead of facing Sydney Roosters in the World Club Challenge next weekend was imperative for Wigan.
He told Sky Sports: "It was a little bit better [than last week]. It was again a slow start, but we showed some promise there. We worked on a few things during the week which I'm happy they showed tonight.
"I'm pleased for George [Williams]. I thought he was quiet last week, and we wanted a bit more out of him so I'm glad he's produced tonight. I was pleased with their shape today. Again, we didn't really play any rugby last week.
"We just needed a win, it didn't matter what the score was. We needed confidence going into next week and we're looking forward to it."
Rhinos coach David Furner rued his side's ill-discipline and believes 'guidance' is needed if Leeds are to turn a corner.
He said: "Unfortunately, we lacked a bit of discipline with the ball, and we gave away a few penalties. The players worked hard in that second half to try to get back into the game.
"I think they had five or six sets on their line, so we're working hard for each other but we're putting ourselves in a position of making too many errors.
"There were some really good patches there where we got some points, but we weren't playing where we needed to play.
"A little bit of guidance is needed and we need to build each week. They got some points from kicks. I'm happier than last week, but certainly we've got some work to do."