Ward treble dents Wigan's play-off hopes
Wigan Warriors' hopes of retaining their Super League crown were dented as the defending champions suffered a 32-16 defeat to Leeds Rhinos at Headingley on Friday.
England international Stevie Ward scored a hat-trick in a morale-boosting victory for the Rhinos, who lost to Hull last weekend in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup.
While Leeds sit second in the table after the opening round of Super 8s fixtures, Wigan face an uphill battle to make the top four and have a chance of returning to Old Trafford for the Grand Final.
Shaun Wane's men sit eighth in the table, four points behind fourth-placed St Helens with six rounds remaining.
Tom Davies crossed twice for the Warriors on Friday, his second try a superb 90-metre effort, but Ward's treble and a brace from Ashton Golding helped Leeds to a routine win.
SW: "We were poor tonight and lacked energy. The big difference was on field position." pic.twitter.com/ypA4EhTzeV-- Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) August 4, 2017
Salford, who lost to Wigan in the other Challenge Cup semi-final, went down 32-18 to Hull FC despite a brace from Manu Vatuvei on his Super League debut.
The other Super 8s game saw Huddersfield Giants thump Wakefield Trinity 36-6 to deal a blow to the latter's play-off ambitions.
In the qualifiers, Warrington Wolves - last year's beaten finalists who have endured a dismal 2017 - came from behind to win 28-14 at Widnes Vikings.