Despite still not hitting anywhere near top
gear, Wigan saw off Hull KR to ensure a sixth consecutive league
victory that took them back joint top of the table.
I'm sure their are many differing opinions on
that run of victories but in truth we've played 10th, 4th, 13th,
14th, 12th and then 10th again. Apart from the match against 4th
place (St Helens), we should have expected to win all those games,
and we did win them all without ever going beyond the effort
required to win those games.
Next month is when we really need to hit our
straps and I thought at the back end of this game we saw signs of
quality that will hopefully become more consistent throughout the
80 minutes next month. I mean we will now embark on a run of games
that will see us play 7th, 6th (on a test match weekend), 4th, 3rd,
5th and our game in hand against 6th on a midweek. It's a tough run
of games that will tell us a lot about how the back end of this
season is going to pan out. If I was the coach I'd be setting them
the target next month of getting clear top of the table before the
game in hand.
Speaking of the coach, Michael Maguire shuffled
his pack after a slow performance in the cup at Bradford. Harrison
Hansen returned, after missing the last four games, in place of
Liam Farrell. A bigger change though was to start both Paul Deacon
and Brett Finch in the halves with Thomas Leuluai going to Hooker
and Mike McIlorum to the bench.
I thought that switch worked really well because
Wigan started on fire in the first ten minutes or so. Brett Finch
though, for me, it still isn't flowing for him. On occasions he
shows his class but other times he seemed to be hitting dummy
runners with passes when he should have been missing them. For me
it remains still very much a mixed bag from him.
I know "@gcunning12"
on twitter is always on at me about us getting Sam Tomkins back
into the halves, and earlier in the season when we had a struggle
period I was agreeing, but I still think that when Paul Deacon is
fit, Sam is a better option at Full Back. His hatrick tonight made
it 11 tries in his last 6 matches, In fairness though he's been on
fire against the poorer teams, let's see if he can step up to the
mark against better sides next month!
Pat Richards also continues to show his class as
well. After he also completed a hatrick tonight, he surpassed a
century of league points scored in just 7 league matches. Top
points scorer in Super League (Brett Hodgson) is only on 187
points, from twice as many matches, so I'm wondering Pat can really
finish top regular season points scorer again for what would be the
fifth year in a row? He'll have to stay fit and score a fair few
more hatricks I reckon but he is only 77 points short. If he could
do that having missed the first 7 matches in the season it would be
an unbelievable achievement.
Onto the match itself. Hull KR had first
possession in this game but once Wigan got the ball it took them
just 43 seconds to get over the white wash. Thomas Leuluai, Paul
Deacon and Brett Finch combined to get Sam Tomkins breaking down
the left wing. He had both Richards and George Carmont in simple
support but instead he greedily kept hold of the ball. It look like
Blake Green would stop him short but his spinning in the tackle
momentum just about carried him over the line. Pat converted for a
Rovers got a sniff of something when Ryan
Hoffman knocked on the restart but it soon continued to be all
Wigan in the early stages and that was rewarded with the second try
in the 10th minute. Finch and Carmont combined to get Pat over for
an easy score in the left corner. Then he converted off the
touchline to make it 12-0.
So at this point I'm thinking, come on let's
kick on, but it never happened again. It wasn't a lack of effort
but I think the fact our last tackle option remains poor was
letting Rovers off the hook. Off memory I can't recall us getting
too many repeat sets and I think it's something that will have to
improve on to retain the title this year because I don't think
we'll get away with poor last tackle options like we did last year.
Hull KR though were struggling to get any
forward momentum. My memory of the night will be a superb shoulder
on shoulder shot from Leuluai, after about 20 or so minutes, that
left Joel Clinton struggling to get up off his arse. Big massive
prop forward running at ya? He loves the challenge Leuluai and
despite being relatively small in comparison, he proper hammered
him! Clinton soon left the field and I don't think he returned?
The first real test of Wigan's defence came in
the 24th minute when Rovers embarked on a 5 sets in a row attack on
our try line. The territory came after a scrum penalty against
Wigan on half way. Rovers peppered our line for five full minutes
but couldn't find a way through and the home faithful rewarded that
effort with a well deserved round of applause.
Eventually though, Rovers did get over the try
line for what turned out to be their only score of the match. It
came on 36 minutes. Nice kick from Blake Green was collected by Ben
Cockayne and he found support from Super League's joint top try
scorer Kris Welham on the inside. Jpsh Charnley was trying his best
to knock the ball out before he could ground but after video
referee reflection he was shown to have scored, Dobson converted
I think that score flattered Hull KR. Wigan had
been in far more control that that but whilst Pat Richards second
try, right on the half time hooter, was perhaps controversial, it
wasn't an injustice to Rovers effort. It made the score a fairer
When Sam Tomkins collected the ball, in his own
half, only 36 seconds remained before the break but Wigan had
scored in similar time at the beginning of the game. Very patient
build up. Three drives then an offload from Joel Tomkins to get
Harrison Hansen away put Rovers on the back foot. Wigan got the
play the ball away, out on the right and with just 4 seconds to go,
and then went left with Finch putting in a perfectly weighted kick
for Pat to chase and score from. Now it is debatable whether he
grounded the ball but my opinion on that remains simple. Replay the
decision at full speed! No need for this slow motion frame by frame
nonsense which can make a split second look like a life time. I
defy anyone to rule out that try when witnessing it at full speed!
At slow speed it look like Pat had momentarily knocked on.
Anyway the try was given but Pat couldn't
convert off the touchline. Like I said though, 16-6 was far more a
better reflection on that half of rugby than 12-6 would have been.
Now in a couple of recent games against Hull KR,
Wigan had built up good first half leads which had then seen Rovers
quickly come back early in the second half. It happened late last
year at Craven Park. 16-0 up, quickly became 18-16 down just
10 minutes after the restart. They still lost anyway but it shows
that Rovers do respond to half time dressing downs from Justin
Morgan and I think Wigan realised this. I think they thought,
right, forget the attack for the next 15 minutes or so, let's
concentrate on the defence and they seemed to do that. We saw very
little Wigan attack early in the second half but once we got a
proper attack on the Rovers line, we got over for the score.
It was 18 minutes in coming but credit
Charnley for setting up the territory. He fended off soft tackling
from Kris Welham, then stepped back inside to get on the break
away. He'd done so much damage that Shaun Briscoe was forced to
concede a holding down penalty on half way.
That put Wigan inside the Rovers 20 metre area
and Sam Tomkins did the rest. He was attacking down the left but,
after throwing the dummy, he switched back inside towards the
posts. Rhys Lovegrove, Ben Fisher, Josh Hodgson and Michael Vella
all struggled to lay a finger on him as his footwork got him under
the sticks. Easy Pat conversion for 22-6.
From that moment the game was won and for once,
Wigan kept on the gas in the final quarter to finish off the
performance with some classy tries.
Next try came on 67 minutes. Joel Tomkins'
forward looking pass was not seen by the touch judge (they should
really be sponsored by
RNIB the amount of forward passes they keep missing) and thus
Charnley was away again. Not a clear break but a nice fend off puts
Welham on his arse and this creates space for an offload back to
Joel who continues down the right. Five metres out he is forced to
take the tackle from Briscoe but a quick play the ball see's Sam
screaming for it up the middle. He get's the ball and dances over
for his hatrick try close to the posts. Easy conversion then
for Pat which made it 28-6.
Would you believe that's the first Wigan hatrick
this season. We've had 14 instances of players scoring twice but
never three times. But like someone tweeted at me it was like the
local bus service when a second quickly followed four minutes
This came after George Carmont brilliantly
collected a last tackle bomb from Dobson. Carmont may turn 33 next
month but he still mugged last defender Briscoe, who is five years
his junior, with his footwork. Sadly he couldn't complete an 80
metre break but Pat was in support to complete the last 20 of those
metres and score under the posts. Another easy kick made it 34-6.
Carmont deserved a try for that effort and got
one with three minutes to go. Lovely combination between Sam and
Joel got the latter on the break away and Carmont was in support to
finish a try that is the 50th of his Wigan career, a feat achieved
in just 110 matches. Pat's conversion completed the scoring and a
So that was an excellent last 20 minutes from
Wigan but in finishing this report I have to mention the epic fail
from Paul Prescott. On 71 minutes he had broke through a pathetic
tackle attempt from Fisher and all he needed to do was to send
either of supporting Leuluai or Sean O'Loughlin over the line but
instead he passed to a worm in the grass! What a shocker! Eamon
O'Carroll commentating for Wish FM said he will get stick for that
but I say........Precky...............go to your room!