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Leeds Rhinos

2017 Super League Champions

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Leeds Rhinos 16 Wigan Warriors 17

4th April 1997

By Leeds Rhinos

Leeds Rhinos were boosted going into this game with the arrival of Iestyn Harris from Warrington Wolves and the Welsh international made his debut wearing the number 13 shirt against Wigan.

Wigan were always likley to test that renaissance and a last gasp Andy Farrell drop goal saw them take the points back to Central Park after a monumental clash.
 
Again there was controversy certainly in the build up to both Wigan tries, but the Rhinos had the opportunity to settle the outcome themselves without recourse to ‘what might have been’.
 
The early exchanges were characteristically uncompromising, the visitor's defence being particularly well organanised and impregnable out wide.  The Rhinos were the more adventurous side pushing the ball wide at every available opportunity but failing to be decisive in the tackle. After early penalties were exchanged, TalIec’s incisive chip and regather seemed to have brought him a ?ne score in the corner only for the screen ref to rule him in touch in goal. In their next real attack, though, Farrell's delightful reverse grubber on the last tackle was ?elded by Robinson who sent the supporting Murdock over.
 
The introduction of Harris soon after to a rapturous reception brought immediate rewards. He committed the Wigan defensive line with a sway and a shimmy and a perfectly time pass sent Phil Hassan over. The spark had taken less than two minutes to ignite.
 
The second forty minutes was a superb exhibition of rugby league even allowing for the fact that the players on both sides, suffering from a surfeit of matches, were tiring towards the end.
 
Wigan under Eric Hughes have gone back to basics and their work up the middle allied to some thoughtful kicks to touch saw them turn back the Harris prompted blue and amber tide. The Leeds record signing was involved in all facets of their play, distributing tellingly, creating time and space for the likes of Richie Blackmore to exploit and tackling manfully. He received emphatic support from
Gary Mercer, Damien Gibson, Adrian Morley and Jamie Mathiou but all were powerless to prevent Robinson extending the Wigan lead after Farrell and Connolly had opened the home defence again running on the last tackle.
 
Leeds poured forward, Collins, Morley and Harris having dangerous tilts and the reintroduction of Holroyd saw him combine with Harris to’ send Phil Hassan over out wide, Holroyd converted majestically from touch to tie the match up and set up a rousing ?nish.
 
The Rhinos had two gilt edged opportunities to secure the win their enterprise deserved. Martin Masella who had another top game, powered 60 metres up the middle swatting off would be tacklers but his delayed pass failed to find Damien Gibson.
 
Then the position for a drop goal was spurned when Holroyd elected to grubber to the corner as Leeds pressed for a try. Wigan needed no such invitation and after an early, Farrell effort had missed its target he made no mistake a minute from time to steal the win with a one-pointer.
 
It was heart stopping stuff for the Rhinos faithful and although defeat always hurts there were enough encouraging signs to soothe the pain, not the least of which was the form of the new number 13. He will be some acquisition when fully ?t and in tune with his teammates.

WP – Home MPU

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