All views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the site.
Leeds and Wigan matches can sometimes be an exhilarating affair for fans of the respective teams. They have produced brilliant stadium atmospheres on the back of controversy, hatred, and the fact that both are amongst the biggest glamour clubs of the northern hemisphere. The argument of who is the best between the Rhinos and the Warriors brings about very strong opinions from both camps. Wigan fans seem to think they the best because of what the club went through in the 1980s and early 1990s. I as a Rhinos fan, on the other hand, think that Leeds is the better club because they produce quality over Wigan’s quantity.
As recently as 2008 Leeds recorded an impressive 52 - 16 defeat of Wigan at the then named JJB stadium. That was 52 points shifted against the like of last year’s grand final winners George Carmont, Tomas Leuluai, Stuart Fieldan, Iafeta Paleaaeasina, Harrison Hansen, Andy Coley, Joel Tomkins and Paul Prescott, and won with absolute ease. It was a scintillating summer performance by a Rhinos side that Wigan couldn't answer on that day.
The next time these two teams met that year was in the play offs at Headingley. I was very unfortunate to miss this game as I was in Italy at the time cleaning dustbins! Meanwhile Leeds Rhinos cleaned Wigan out of the play-offs in what I heard was an impressively close game that had everything, including the 'biff'. Like 2007, Wigan finished 2008 as the third best team in the country. Mind you Catalans Dragons might like to contradict.
In 2009 Wigan finished as the third best team in the country, again thanks to St Helens stopping them. It was Brian Nobles last game as the Cherry and Whites head coach. His strategy of peaking in the play-offs was not bearing fruit, and this was the last time it wouldn’t work for him at Wigan. 2010 saw play-off form become all season form as Michael Maguire brought in the Melbourne Storm way of doing things to the Lancashire club. He turned them from the third best team in the country, to undoubtedly the best team in the country.
This year everyone knows what Wigan are capable of, and their element of surprise is gone. This is not a Wigan team all that much different to the one under Brian Noble. The Warrington and St George games were akin to games Wigan lost under Brian Noble. I believe that the decline of this Wigan Warriors team will be as fast as its rise. I don’t know if Leeds will beat Wigan this week, but I can guarantee that Wigan will not be back-to-back-to-back winners come October 2012, like Leeds Rhinos were in 2009.
So whatever the outcome, class is permanent and form is temporary. Wigan had the form last year, but not necessary the class. The fact is that Wigan always do well when everyone else is doing badly. Only Wigan fans are blind and ignorant of that fact.
It should be a good game and GAME ON!
PS – thanks to Paul (southstander.com) for the match reports and RLphotos for my sources!