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ESL Round 14
Reports - Friday/Saturday Games
Giants clinch historic victory, Rhinos see off battling Centurions, and St Helens clinch close-fought win.
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Giants clinch historic victory
Huddersfield produced a stunning second-half comeback to record their first win at Wigan in the Super League era, scoring 22 points in the second half to run out 26-24 winners.
Coach Denis Betts and his Warriors outfit have come under fire of late after an indifferent start to the campaign that has seen them slip to sixth spot in the engage Super League table.
And more questions will surely be asked after a side that had looked so sharp and productive in the first half surrendered a winning position against a top-six rival for the second week in a row.
Wigan had initially responded to defeat at Warrington last Sunday by putting in one of their best 40 opening minutes of the campaign, resulting in scores for Danny Tickle, Brett Dallas and Dennis Moran.
The home side were quickly into their stride from the kick-off as, after Jerry Seuseu and Harrison Hansen were held up just short, Tickle crashed over from close range, somehow grounding the ball despite the attentions of two tacklers.
The Warriors were playing with plenty of pride and passion after licking their wounds following the narrow defeat at Warrington last Sunday, and they were over again for their second score in the opening 10 minutes that owed everything to the sheer pace of wingman Dallas.
The Giants were on the attack 20 metres from the Wigan line when a long ball went to ground and the Australian speedster was onto it like a flash, sprinting 80 metres under the sticks and leaving the defenders chasing only shadows.
Six minutes later Moran picked off a risky blind pass from Ben Roarty to race 70 metres for a very similar touchdown and, with Tickle?s third easy conversion, the Warriors were 18-0 up and scoring better than a point a minute.
Huddersfield coach Jon Sharp showed his immediate displeasure at Roarty?s unforced error by hauling off the rugged Australian in a desperate attempt to shake his side into life.
However, Wigan almost extended their lead moments later when an inside ball from returning captain Kris Radlinski narrowly failed to find the supporting Danny Orr.
It was one-way traffic up to this point, although the Giants threw themselves a lifeline on the half hour after a moment of magic from Stanley Gene.
The Papua New Guinean half-back took the ball at second receiver and put a lovely grubber kick through for Marcus St Hilaire to beat Brian Carney to the ball as it approached the dead-ball line.
Michael De Vere was unable to convert from the touchline, but at least the visitors had given the Warriors something to think about.
On the stroke of half-time, however, Sharp was shaking his head again as Jim Gannon tackled Moran as he caught a pass from Terry Newton, giving Tickle another two points and earning Gannon 10 minutes in the sin bin for his trouble.
The Giants needed to score first in the second period, and this they did with only two minutes on the clock.
A pass from Jerome Guisset to Radlinski went to ground and Gene was on it in a flash, releasing Chris Thorman to glide in, De Vere?s conversion reducing the arrears to 20-10.
Ten minutes later the Giants were in again, hooker Brad Drew causing all kinds of problems for Wigan?s left-hand defence to send Hefin O?Hare over in the corner to make it 20-14.
Wigan could not put any kind of momentum together with ball in hand and, after Carney had the ball knocked out of his hands on the first tackle, the Giants spread the ball right and Chris Nero touched down to narrow the gap to just two points, with De Vere?s goal scraping over to level it up with 20 minutes remaining.
The Giants were in the ascendancy now, and Thorman put the Yorkshiremen ahead for the first time 12 minutes from time, darting over through some weak tackling when he chose to ignore a clear overlap to his right.
De Vere?s goal made it 26-20 and, although Kevin Brown?s late score in the corner made for an exciting finale, Tickle crucially could not convert.
Wigan: Radlinski, Dallas, Aspinwall, Vaealiki, Carney, Orr, Moran, Seu Seu, Newton, Guisset, Tickle, Hansen, Wild. Replacements: Brown, Sculthorpe, McDonald, Godwin.
Huddersfield: St Hilaire, O?Hare, Nero, De Vere, Donlan, Thorman, Gene, Crabtree, Drew, Jackson, Jones, Smith, Roarty. Replacements: March, Gannon, Grayshon, Clayton.
Wigan: (20) 24. Tries: Tickle, Dallas, Moran, Brown. Goals: Tickle 4.
Huddersfield: (4) 26. Tries: St Hilaire, Thorman 2, O?Hare, Nero. Goals: De Vere 3.
Referee: Ian Smith (Oldham) Att: 10,057
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Rhinos see off battling Centurions
Danny McGuire celebrated his return from injury with two sparkling tries as Leeds recorded their second victory within eight days against battling basement outfit Leigh with a 42-24 win.
The Great Britain stand-off, who scored a remarkable 39 tries last season, had been out of action since breaking a bone in his hand at Wigan on April 15.
But McGuire?s fine double not only emphatically signalled his return to action, it proved crucial for Leeds against a Centurions outfit who made the Rhinos battle all the way for points.
While Leeds hammered Darren Abram?s side 60-4 at the Coliseum last Friday, Leigh made a much better fist of it this time around.
As the Rhinos looked to have the game safe with a 24-6 interval lead, the Centurions tore out of the traps after the restart to level the match at 24-24.
Remarkably, they were beginning to scent an improbable victory, until a vintage finish by McGuire handed Leeds an advantage which this time they did not surrender.
Leigh?s players may have breathed a sigh of relief prior to kick-off at the absence through injury of Leeds duo Rob Burrow and Lee Smith, who both notched a brace in each of the Rhinos? past two games.
In their place, however, stepped McGuire and Marcus Bai, who scored a total of 65 tries between them last season.
The Centurions, who included former Leeds pair Darren Fleary and Robbie Mears, made an encouraging start, but were punished for conceding the ball on the first tackle after nine minutes.
Leeds quickly broke up field and worked the ball swiftly through four pairs of hands which culminated in full-back Richard Mathers crossing the line.
Two minutes later and Leeds extended their lead with a devastating counter-attacking move.
Willie Poching raced out from his own 20 metre line and slipped a clever pass to McGuire, who raced clear from deep inside his own half before grounding between the posts.
Leigh hit back five minutes later when Kiwi loose forward Mark Leafa side-stepped his way through for an impressive try which Phil Jones converted to give the visitors some much-needed respite.
However, Leeds soon reasserted their authority on proceedings with close-range tries from Chris McKenna and Gareth Ellis after more slick passing from the Rhinos.
And with Kevin Sinfield converting all four of his side?s tries, Leeds went in at the break with a 24-6 advantage.
Whatever Abram told his players during the interval clearly had the desired effect as they came out with all guns blazing to stun Leeds with two quickfire tries.
Jones, impressive at stand-off, darted through a gap to register before former St Helens winger Dom Feaunati did likewise to further spur the visitors.
Jones converted both tries and after full-back John Wilshere finished off some excellent work from close range shortly before the hour mark, he again kicked successfully to draw the scores level at 24-24.
Leigh were sensing an improbable victory, but McGuire clearly had other ideas and swung the pendulum back in the Rhinos? favour just two minutes later.
Having collected Willie Poching?s neat offload, he surged infield on a diagonal run past Leigh?s defence and grounded under the posts.
Mark Calderwood grabbed his 14th Super League try of the season with little over 10 minutes remaining before grabbing his second five minutes later.
And with Sinfield maintaining his 100% record with the boot, the Rhinos could at last breath a little easier.
Leeds: Mathers, Calderwood, Walker, McKenna, Bai, Sinfield, McGuire, Jones-Buchanan, Dunemann, McDermott, Lauitiiti, Poching, Ellis. Replacements: Ward, Scruton, Murrell, Botham.
Leigh: Wilshere, Maden, Cooper, Jackson, Feaunati, Jones, Kent, Fleary, Mears, Stapleton, McCurrie, King, Leafa. Replacements: Marshall, Sturm, Rowley, Stevens.
Leeds: (24) 42. Tries: Mathers, McGuire 2, McKenna, Ellis, Calderwood 2. Goals: Sinfield 7.
Leigh: (6) 24. Tries: Leafa, Jones, Feaunati, Wilshere. Goals: Jones 4.
Referee: Ashley Klein (London) Att: 14,026
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St Helens clinch close-fought win
Saints were clinging to a 24-22 lead when an otherwise subdued Sculthorpe broke out of his own half to set up the position for substitute Mick Higham to score the match-clinching try.
The loose forward then put over a drop-goal to make sure of a win that keeps St Helens in touch with leaders Leeds, their next opponents at Knowsley Road next Friday.
New coach Daniel Anderson will be in charge by then and, when he sees the tape of tonight?s match, he will be relieved to see his side bounce back from their 44-6 humiliation at Hull.
They were pushed all the way by the spirited Vikings, who matched their star-studded visitors throughout a pulsating first half and edged in front for a brief spell in the second half as they threatened to pull off their first Super League win against Saints.
The visitors led 12-2 and 18-12 but were pegged back each time by the home side, who were without leading tryscorer Aaron Moule.
Widnes took the lead with a penalty goal from half-back Stephen Myler after only two minutes but they looked to be in for a long, hard night when they conceded two tries in seven minutes.
Sculthorpe won the race to Keiron Cunningham?s grubber-kick to score the first and winger Darren Albert grabbed the second following a superb pick-up and dive to gather Sean Long?s lofted kick to the corner.
Long converted both touchdowns to put his side 12-2 up but Widnes, in buoyant mood following their seven-try win at Wakefield, were level within eight minutes.
Skipper Shane Millard forced his way over from dummy-half and then centre Gary Connolly, who began his distinguished career at St Helens 17 years ago, took Owen Craigie?s long pass to cross wide out.
That was the signal for the visitors to show the St Helens of old as centre Willie Talau twice kicked ahead and full-back Paul Wellens emulated Albert?s earlier effort with some devastating finishing.
Long kicked a second touchline conversion to open up a six-point lead but Widnes struck back in controversial fashion in first-half stoppage time.
Craigie?s elusive run opened up the Saints defence for substitute Matt Whitaker to stroll over for a try, with referee Richard Silverwood ignoring vehement claims by defenders for an obstruction.
Myler kicked his third goal to tie the scores once more and Widnes went in front for the first time nine minutes into the second half when right winger Andrew Emelio collected Craigie?s pinpoint kick to the corner.
That try followed a handling error by Long, who was immediately withdrawn by caretaker coach Dave Rotheram, and his absence almost proved costly.
It was then Saints? turn to draw level, with Albert taking Jamie Lyon?s cut-out pass and easily beating his former team-mate Gray Viane on the outside to claim his second try.
Sculthorpe, St Helens? second-choice marksman, missed the difficult conversion but was on target with a penalty on 61 minutes to restore his side?s lead.
The captain then came up with the decisive break and Maurie Fa?asavalu and Wellens kept the ball alive for Higham to finish off. Sculthorpe hit the woodwork with the conversion but made sure of the win with a one-pointer six minutes from the end.
Widnes: Holmes, Emelio, Hughes, Connolly, Viane, Craigie, Myler, O'Connor, Millard, Stankevitch, Cassidy, Frame, Finnigan. Replacements: O'Neill, Whitaker, Fa-alogo, Smith.
St Helens: Wellens, Gardner, Lyon, Talau, Albert, Hooper, Long, P. Anderson, Cunningham, Fa'asavalu, Wilkin, V. Anderson, Sculthorpe. Replacements: Bennett, Higham, Mason, Fozzard.
Widnes: (18) 22. Tries: Millard, Connolly, Whitaker, Emelio. Goals: Myler 3.
St Helens: (18) 29. Tries: Sculthorpe, Albert 2, Wellens, Higham. Goals: Long 3, Sculthorpe. Drop Goals: Sculthorpe.
Referee: Richard Silverwood (Dewsbury) Att: 7,641
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Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for another great article.