sport

Wane praises injury-hit Wigan

Wigan coach Shaun Wane described his injury-hit side's 18-14 win over Leeds as his best yet.

The reigning champions overcame the absence of seven regulars and the loss of Australian stand-off Blake Green with a ruptured bicep in the second half to inflict on the Rhinos only a second defeat of the season and avenge their loss at Headingley earlier this month.

"If everybody in this room is honest, nobody thought we would win that game and I said that to the players before we left," Wane said.

"Even the directors at Wigan didn't expect us to win it.

"But everyone in that room knew we would. Our tenacity and aggression was fantastic and that got us the win in the end.

"It's my best win ever and what happened today will stay with my players, especially the younger ones, for a long time."

Wane revealed that four of his players, including teenager Ryan Sutton who was concussed in last week's win at Hull, defied doctor's orders to play as the coach found himself down to the "bare bones".

"This is the worst run of injuries I've had," he said.

"There were four players who should never have played - they've not trained all week and played with injections.

"We had nobody else so they had to play. It went against my gut feeling, it was wrong of me to do that. But they put bodies on the line and defended tough against a big, athletic and skilful Leeds team. "

The Warriors' bravery was typified by Leeds-born hooker Michael McIlorum, who captained the team in the absence of Sean O'Loughlin and emerged from the sin bin to score the match--winning try.

"He's only 89 kilos but he's the toughest bloke I've ever coached," Wane added. "That's why I was so pleased when he scored that try, especially being a Leeds lad. I was pumped for him."

McIlorum's 55th-minute score, which followed first-half tries by Anthony Gelling and Green, put Wigan into an 18-4 lead but Leeds cut the gap to just four points as Carl Ablett crossed and Ryan Hall got his second try.

Joel Moon also had an effort four minutes from the end disallowed by video referee Phil Bentham for a knock-on.

It made for a nervous wait for Wane before the verdict was announced in Wigan's favour.

"I wasn't confident but the more I watched it, it definitely came off his hands," Wane said.

"And I think it was the right result. I would have been absolutely distraught for the players because of the effort they put in. It's great for the club."

Leeds will lose top spot if St Helens beat Warrington in the final match of the extravaganza on Sunday but coach Brian McDermott was gracious in defeat.

"I'm not too down about it," he said.

"I hate losing but we have been winning with a bit of class and you have got to lose with class when you are beaten by a better team on the day.

"I thought Wigan deserved that. They were more intense in the early stages. They put us off our game, we weren't allowed to attack as we wanted to do and that's where we probably lost the game.

"Credit to Wayney, who had a so-called lesser team out but he got them to play. We had a lot of fight in us and it was a tremendous second half but I've no complaints about the result."