The final day of the season mathematics were not simple, either at the top of the table, or for the play off places. SKY chose to send their cameras to the Leigh Sports Village where the Leopards hoped to spoil the party for their near neighbours and seal them a loss which could see them end the night in third spot.
Wigans superior points difference meant that so long as they beat Leigh by a point, and Catalans won by less than sixty-eight, and Saints won by less than one hundred and forty-one, then it would be the Warriors getting crowned as minor premiers by ten o’clock.
A loss and wins for Catalans and the Saints would drop them down into the spots for next week’s play-off games and throw away the luxury of a week off. Leigh were also looking over their shoulders and knew that a heavy loss could open the doors for Hull KR to take fourth and a home game next weekend.
It was clear from the first whistle that both sides were intent on taking the two points and were going to give everything that they had to make sure that they were the ones who were smiling at the final hooter.
It took an epic seventeen minutes for an epic try from Jai Field as he shrugged off three tacklers to break the line from ten metres out and score in the left corner. Harry Smith kicked the touchline conversion for a 6-0 lead.
Last ditch defence prevented Field from getting a second on twenty-four, but on twenty-seven Jake Wardle took the ball after a neat passing move and evaded the Leigh defenders to go over, again in the left-hand corner. This time Smith was unable to add the extras.
A tremendous defensive effort saw Leigh’s Josh Charnley pushed into touch as he went for the line on thirty-three but two minutes later Lachlan Lam was on hand and in space to take a Kai O’Donnell pass and go in by the left upright. Ben Reynolds added the conversion, and the lead was down to four points at the interval.
Field thought he’d got his second on fifty but there was an obstruction in back play and the referee had stood his ground and awarded a penalty to Leigh. Within a minutes Leigh thought they’d got a try of their own when Oliver Gildart went over but after sending the decision up as a NO TRY, the video referee couldn’t find the evidence to overrule the decision.
A Reynolds 40-20 gave Leigh a set inside the Wigan twenty on the hour mark from which they forced a goal line dropout, but it came to nothing.
As the game progressed to the final hooter with neither side troubling the scorers in the second half, Wigan securing the win, the crucial two points, and the league leaders shield.
Wigan had a difficult run out against their near neighbours and knew that they were in a battle but will be relieved that they got the points and finished top of the pile with an important week off next weekend. Leigh never gave up hope of snatching a win and they will be doubly disappointed that they lost the game, and in doing so lost home advantage in next weekend’s play offs against Hull KR, who themselves demolished Wakefield Trinity to secure fourth spot on points difference.
On we move to the play offs.
Leigh Leopards: O´Brien, Briscoe, Gildart, Chamberlain, Charnley, Reynolds (G), Lam (T), Amone, Ipape, Mulhern Hughes, O’Donnell, Wardle. Subs: Mellor, Davis, Nakubuwai, Holmes. 18th Man: Seumanufagai.
Wigan Warriors: Field (T), Miski, King, Wardle (T), Marshall, French, Smith (G), Dupree, O’Neill, Ellis, Pearce-Paul, Farrell, Smithies. Subs: Powell, Nsemba, Mago, Hill. 18th Man: Shorrocks.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 0-10, 4-10, 6-10 : HT: :FT.
Lead Exchanges: Wigan.
Referee: Liam Moore.