MATCH REPORT | WIGAN WARRIORS | ROUND 16

Betfred Super League Round 16

The Brick Community Stadium, Friday 5 July 2024 (8pm)

Wigan Warriors 24-6 Leigh Leopards

Leopards’ long wait for a win on Wigan soil goes on but they came out of a true Battle of the Borough with their heads held high after arguably Super League’s best game of the year so far.

Not since 1983, when Leigh won 26-12 at the old Central Park, have they vanquished the old enemy on their own turf but for long periods of an enthralling game the dream was kept alive.

A bumper derby crowd of over 16,000, including nearly 2,000 travelling Leopards, was captivated by a blood and thunder game of huge physicality played at an intense pace, ultimately decided by two pieces of brilliance by the Warriors.

With Leopards trailing only 8-6 approaching the midpoint of the second half Super League’s leading try-scorer of 2024, David Marshall, produced a quite outstanding finish, one handed, in mid air by the corner flag.

No matter it was Wigan’s first concerted attack of the second half, but rather a lesson in incisive finishing by the reigning champions.

Harry Smith, Bevan French and Jake Wardle- with a brilliant one-handed pass, provided the assists, Marshall taking off the in midair in Umyla Hanley’s tackle and somehow touching the ball down right-handed in the tightest of spaces.

Three minutes later Super League’s reigning Man of Steel French, so often a thorn in Leopards’ side, came up with a piece of magic to effectively settle the game. Smith’s pass gave him daylight on halfway and he astutely kicked ahead and won the race to touch down for another try of outstanding opportunism.

Liam Farrell’s late try, with Smith and Wardle again involved in the build up was cruel on the Leopards as the final score, after Adam Keighran’s fourth goal concluded the action, gave an unrealistic look to the flow of the game.

Leopards welcomed back Gareth O’Brien, Robbie Mulhern and skipper John Asiata after injury and signalled their intent with a superb pressure defence in a physical first quarter that set the tone for a night of high drama.

Warriors lost Mike Cooper to an early HIA after a big collision in the tackle and had to hang on for long periods as Leopards piled on the attacks.

French’s brilliant try-saving tackle on Edwin Ipape on 15 minutes, when the Kumul hooker looked all ends up a scorer, was a decisive moment.

So, too, was Mulhern’s sin binning for a late tackle on Kaide Ellis, referee Aaron Moore ruling, after consulting video referee Ben Thaler, there had been a whiplash effect.

With Leopards short-handed temporarily, Keighran opened the scoring with a 30-metre penalty. Then French scored his first try after Smith cleverly found Wardle with a cut-out pass to the left. The centre raced over 40 metres before popping up the perfect inside pass for the predatory French to finish.

Matt Moylan, again outstanding for Leopards, brilliantly foiled French just before half-time, cleverly anticipating Jack Farrimond’s kick to the line.

Wigan’s new international hooker Brad O’Neill was sin-binned for lifting Mulhern above the horizontal in the tackle to leave his side short handed for the opening ten minutes of the second half. Mulhern was the latest player to depart for a HIA and later returned to the fray.

Leopards lost Josh Charnley to a painful rub injury sustained late in the half and had to reshuffle, moving Zak Hardaker to the left and Ed Chamberlain to centre.

Moylan went close after yet another Mulhern offload, the Leopards prop enjoying an outstanding game on his return.

Then Hanley put a foot in touch as he tried to squeeze in at the corner in Marshall’s challenge, no matter as he lost possession anyway attempting to ground the ball in a fine defensive tackle.

Hardaker was wrapped up by the flag and Moylan and Lachlan Lam almost prized an opening after great interplay.

Tom Amone went off for an HIA after a late hit by Luke Thompson before Leopards finally broke through.

After Asiata, making his return in the second half, was held up Brad Dwyer showed enormous strength and determination to find a way through a brick wall of four Wigan defenders from dummy half, Moylan’s conversion reducing the arrears to two points.

That was as good as it got for the Leopards as Marshall and French came up with tries fit to win any match. Wigan had to be at their very best, both defensively and in attack to go four points clear at the top.

Leopards make a long-awaited return to home turf next Saturday, 13 July, when they entertain Huddersfield Giants in Round 17. The kick-off at the Leopards Den for a rare Saturday afternoon game is 3pm.

Warriors

6 Bevan French; 2 Abbas Miski, 3 Adam Keighran, 4 Jake Wardle, 5 Liam Marshall; 30 Jack Farrimond, 7 Harry Smith; 14 Mike Cooper, 9 Brad O’Neill, 16 Liam Thompson, 21 Junior Nsemba, 12 Liam Farrell (capt), 18 Kaide Ellis

Bench:

8 Ethan Havard, 15 Patrick Mago, 19 Tyler Dupree, 22 Sam Walters; 18th player: 26 Zach Eckersley (not used)

Tries: French (21, 61), Marshall (58), Farrell (80)

Goals: Keighran 4/ 5

Sin bin: O’Neill (40) late tackle

Leopards

6 Matt Moylan; 24 Umyla Hanley, 3 Zak Hardaker, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Josh Charnley; 1 Gareth O’Brien, 7 Lachlan Lam (capt); 8 Tom Amone, 9 Edwin Ipape, 10 Robbie Mulhern, 11 Kai O’Donnell, 19 Ed Chamberlain, 17 Owen Trout

Bench:

33 Brad Dwyer, 13 John Asiata, 35 Aaron Pene, 17 Jack Hughes; 18th player: 15 Matty Davis (not used)

Try: Dwyer (54)

Goal: Moylan 1/ 1

Sin bin: Mulhern (19) late tackle

Scoring sequence: 2-0, 8-0 (ht) 8-6, 12-6, 18-6, 24-6

Penalty count: 7-8

GLDO: 1-1

Attendance: 16,000

Referee: Aaron Moore

Touch judges: R Cox & M Craven

Reserve referee: J Pemberton; Video referee: Ben Thaler; Timekeeper: Tony Brown; MC: Keith Leyland

 Photos courtesy SWPix

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