Rhinos aren’t mathematically out of the top-six race, but will be if Warrington Wolves beat Salford Red Devils on Sunday and it has been clear for a while they aren’t good enough to feature in the play-offs.
Full-strength and in-form Wigan were on a different planet to a young and patched-up Rhinos side, who had a 19-year-old second-rower and an 18-year-old rookie in their halves.
In a word, Leeds’ performance was unacceptable; major work is needed before next season.
Leeds’ effort wasn’t lacking, but they made too many errors and, after one early chance, never looked like scoring.
Twelve minutes in, Harry Newman raced away after pouncing on a loose ball inside Leeds’ half. Referee Jack Smith said ‘no try’ and his decision was confirmed by video assistant Liam Moore who spotted a slight touch by Jack Sinfield, though Kai Pearce-Paul had knocked-on first so the scrum went to Leeds.
Moments like that have gone against Rhinos all year, but what happened next has been their major failing. They received a penalty, Mikolaj Oledzki knocked-on on the first carry, Sam Walters was penalised for a high shot and in that set Jake Wardle got above Rhyse Martin to touch down Harry Smith’s kick.
Wigan’s second try came from a similar Smith kick. The referee indicated ‘no try’, but was overruled by Moore, who decided there was no knock-on by Liam Farrell and Jai Field had grounded the ball.
It took multiple replays from several different angles for the video official to spot overwhelming evidence the referee was wrong, which is counter-intuitive.
Anyway, Smith’s second conversion - of an eventual seven - made it 12-0 after 22 minutes. The set came from a knock-on by Luke Hooley and Leeds need to defend better from kicks.
Wigan’s next try came off a lovely passing move, finished by Liam Marshall and Wardle added another touchdown a minute before the interval to make it 22-0.
Six more points were added immediately afterwards when Pearce-Paul charged down Hooley’s kick and crossed off Morgan Smithies’ offload.
Leeds held out until 17 minutes from time when Wardle completed his hat-trick and the floodgates opened as Abbas Miski, Farrell and Patrick Mago added late touchdowns, most off Leeds errors, penalties or both. The penalty count was six-three in Wigan’s favour, after being two-one to Leeds at half-time.
Leeds Rhinos: Hooley, Fusitu’a, Newman, Martin, Handley, Gannon, Sinfield, Oledzki, O’Connor, Holroyd, McDonnell, Walters, C Smith. Subs Donaldson, Lisone, Johnson, Ruan.
Wigan Warriors: Field, Miski, King, Wardle, Marshall, French, H Smith, Ellis, O’Neill, Byrne, Pearce-Paul, Farrell, Smithies. Subs Powell, Mago, Nesmba, Dupree.
Referee: Jack Smith (Wigan). Attendance: 12,861.