#Super League leaders Leeds Rhinos were surprisingly beaten for only the third time this season at Widnes Vikings yesterday. St Helens also came unstuck at the weekend in France against Catalans Dragons. Those defeats allowed Wigan Warriors' demolition of Castleford Tigers on Friday evening to move them above the Saints into second place.
The battle for fourth place remains close, with only Wakefield Wildcats seemingly out of contention among the Super League teams.
Leeds had seemed to be sauntering towards the play-off places a few weeks ago, but suffered yet another set-back away at Widnes. Although the Rhinos' attacking instincts had drawn plaudits in the early stages of the season, their defence had also seemed sound. Widnes seemed to find plenty of gaps though during their seven-try victory over the current Challenge Cup holders.
Leading narrowly by 16-14 after the first-half, Widnes were only able to stretch away from Leeds in the closing stages. Assisted by a brace of tries for centre Kallum Watkins, Leeds trailed by just four points as the game entered the last eight minutes. Widnes proved the stronger side though, stretching their advantage out to 38-24 by the end of the match.
Chris Dean and Aaron Heremaia scored the crucial tries for the Vikings late on. Inspirational skipper Kevin Sinfield didn't feature for Leeds, who may have to re-consider bringing him back soon to regain their early season momentum.
Saints slipped up as well
Leeds had started their game on Sunday knowing that they could move four points clear at the top. That possibility had arisen after Saints had lost to the Catalans on Saturday by 33-26. The Stade Gilbert Brutus has been a relative stronghold for the home side in recent seasons and they utilised that strength to turn around the Saints' game in the final stages. Trailing by two points at the break, the Dragons clinched their success thanks to Zeb Taia's second try late in the second-half. Teammate Benjamin Garcia had earlier scored two first-half tries to keep his side in the match.
Saints' winger Adam Swift did not deserve to be on the losing side, running in four tries during the match. It was the kicking of Scott Dureau that ultimately proved to be the difference between the two sides on the scoreboard.
The Aussie converted 6 goals and a last minute drop goal to edge the result the French side's way, as both teams shared ten tries in the match.
Wigan continued their title charge
Wigan are now second in the league after a professional 28-0 performance at home to Castleford. Tries from Joe Burgess, Michael Mcllorum, Dan Sarginson and Dom Manfredi secured the two points. Six goals from Matty Smith completed the rout in front of 15,000 fans at the DW Stadium.
How it looks at the top
Leeds remain top after 14 matches, but are now only two points above Wigan. Saints slipped to third a further point back. Huddersfield complete the top four places, but Warrington, Castleford and Catalans are all within striking distance.
The adjustments made to the end of season play-offs seem to be having their intended impact this year. It was hoped that the league would continue to be competitive right up to the final fixtures and so far that is looking likely to be the case. Sadly for Wakefield fans they already appear to be cut adrift in twelfth and last place, having won just twice in 13 games played. #Rugby