Match Report – Leeds 6 – 19 Wigan

Makeshift centre Liam Farrell scored a try in each half as Wigan ensured there was no fairytale return to rugby league for Leeds’ new signing Kyle Eastmond.

The dual-code international was told by his coach to feel his way back into the game after an absence of almost a decade and there were clear signs of rust as he struggled to make an impact.

It was to be expected in Eastmond’s first game of any rugby for over 12 months but there was plenty of encouragement for the patched-up Rhinos despite their 19-6 defeat.

While Richard Agar’s men suffered a second defeat in three Super League games, Wigan made it three wins out of three but without producing anything like the 80-minute performance demanded by their coach.

Former Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker returned to haunt his old club with a sparkling solo try, while Farrell once more displayed his versatility by slotting into the centre spot in the continuing absence of Oliver Gildart.

With Adrian Lam not prepared to risk Bevan French just yet, Hardaker was given the nod to continue in his favourite full-back role and he rolled back the years with another impressive performance.

Leeds actually made the brighter start but without causing too many difficulties for the Wigan defence.

It took the Warriors 18 minutes to mount their first threatening attack and, although Rhys Martin stopped second-rower Morgan Smithies in his tracks, two plays later Farrell found a gap to sneak over for the first try.

It was a largely turgid affair, with Eastmond struggling to get into the game, perhaps not helped by a knock he took attempting to stop Hardaker after 26 minutes.

It took a moment of magic from Hardaker seven minutes before the break to light up proceedings.

After spotting his opposite number Jack Broadbent come into the line, Hardaker chipped over the Leeds defence and took advantage of a kind bounce to score a wonderful opportunist try.

The one-time Man of Steel was off target with both his conversion attempts but he almost grabbed a second try just before the interval after running onto a clever kick from Jackson Hastings only to be denied by a last-ditch tackle by winger Luke Briscoe.

Trailing 8-0, the Rhinos were back within two points early in the second half, thanks in no small measure to Eastmond, clearly warming to his task.

His kick into the in-goal area forced a drop-out and, as Leeds maintained the pressure, Eastmond fired out a long pass to Briscoe, whose inside pass out of the tackle got centre Alex Mellor over for a try, which Martin goaled.

It was the first try conceded by Wigan in over 160 minutes and it proved their only blip of the match as they went on to deliver the killer blow, courtesy of a self-inflicted wound by the home side.

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Martin failed to find touch with a relieving penalty and Wigan scored from the next set, Hastings dummying his way past Martin for a soft try on the last tackle.

Hardaker was once more unable to tag on the conversion but he was finally on target after Hastings put Farrell over for his second try and he rounded off the scoring with a drop goal.

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