Well, what a comeback! Fantastic for us, but it was a total
injustice to Hull KR and, despite the comeback, we looked a million
miles off being Grand Final contenders.
The performance in the
first half was one of the worst I've seen from a Wigan side for
quite a while. Coach Shaun Wane came out a couple of weeks ago with
all these phrases like "ah we won't be resting during the cup final
break, I'll be working the boys hard" but it never showed during
that first half.
Now I wouldn't know how they'd trained going into this game but
whatever it was, it clearly was wrong because they turned up at
Craven Park as if they'd sat around doing nothing for two weeks
since the Salford game.
It was unbelievable how poor we played. The pack was lacklustre
and I felt Mike McIlorum struggled at hooker again, just like he
did against Warrington. I think I'm right in saying that the
penalty count was 5-1 at one point against us and that he had been
guilty for three of those we conceded. Not good enough at this
stage of the season, it's going to start costing us.
Sad to say I think we turned up with a total lack of desire. It
was as if they came out with nothing at all to play for. The
reality is we've been playing like this for a while now, being
sloppy with our possession. Even the recent victories over
Castleford, Hull and Salford were full of errors and that was the
issue here as well.
In building up a 26-0 lead, I don't think Hull KR produced
anything special. They just punished Wigan errors and did the
basics exceptionally well. They drove in hard, kicked us to death
on the last tackle, didn't concede crucial penalties or make
errors, whilst clinically punishing our errors.
Well I say clinically but Wigan's defence was piss poor to be
honest. It was like we've time travelled back to 2006, with us
being breached so easily right up the middle. The majority of the
tries from Rovers came under the posts and that to me is a clear
sign of being mentally unprepared for this game.
First try saw a shocking ball from Brett Finch go to ground and
Craig Hall intercepted to go 70 metres for the opening score after
just three minutes. Michael Dobson converted before adding a
penalty goal on 11 minutes for an 8-0 lead. Could of been worse as
Graeme Horne had a try disallowed in between those scores.
Two minutes later though, the second try came and it was right
under the sticks. Impressive Rovers prop Scott Taylor offloaded to
send Lincoln Withers over and the easy conversion made it 14-0.
Wigan had put zero pressure on the Rovers line and a lot of that
was due to our own poor discipline. I mentioned earlier that the
penalty count was 5-1 against us at one point and it was penalties
that helped them claim a third try on 23 minutes with Dobson
offloading to send Ben Galea over. Awful defence. Soft, soft try.
Dobson converted for 20-0.
After that try, Mike McIlorum was interchanged for the long
awaited return of Thomas Leuluai, and rightly so, I think he was
having a stinker. Tommy wouldn't make an immediate impact though
because Rovers scored again on 34 minutes. Cracking bomb to the
left put up by Dobson and both Sam Tomkins and Pat Richards flapped
in dealing with it. Jake Webster gleefully took advantage, Dobson
converting for 26-0.
It was no fluke. Wigan had been that awful, but one thing we've
done superbly all season is scoring crucial tries just before half
time and we claimed two here which were massive in the overall
At this point I decided to move off the Zeebrugge
terrace and go for a little wander towards the food/beer stall
area. As I did so, all of a sudden Wigan bucked up. 37th Minute and
my memory reckons this was genuinely our first real attack on
Rovers line of the game. Neat dummy from Finch got him over from
close range and Pat's conversion made it 26-6. Then from the
restart, Finch grubbered right towards Charnley who cleverly hacked
the ball back inside for Darrell Goulding to score. The ball
bounced lovely for him and Pat's conversion made it 26-12, a half
time score we barely deserved.
Went back onto the Zeebrugge terrace at the start of
the second half and it was all Hull KR again. Wigan went back to
being sloppy. Lincoln Withers took advantage to score on 43 minutes
and to be honest we all assumed game over now at 32-12.
But you fans didn't account for me. Whilst I was stood
on the terrace with a friend and my girlfriend it was 32-0 Hull KR
whilst stood in the food/bar area it was 12-0 Wigan. So I decided
their was logic in a curse around somewhere so I moved back into
the food/bar area and amazingly the game just flipped to Wigan all
of a sudden. Either that is the most amazing of coincidences or
maybe I need to start believing voo-doo and all that?
Anyway, having moved back to the good zone, Wigan
scored two back to back tries on 55 and 57 minutes to get right
back in the game. It was Rovers now making the errors and Wigan
punished. First Finch sent Hock over before a big break from Sam
Tomkins was finished by Richards. He converted only the first of
those two, but the lead was down to 32-22.
Wigan though had a sloppy spell again and although
Dobson missed a penalty goal, they scored on 64 minutes with a try
from ex Warrior David Hodgson. Even though Dobson missed the
conversion, surely now at 36-22 with 15 minutes left this was game
No it wasn't because Wigan quickly responded with Hock
sending Carmont over on 68 minutes. Extras missed by Pat but at
36-26 it was still game on.
KR were visibly beginning to peg out whilst Wigan
looked full of fitness and vitality. All of the damage wasn't being
done up the middle but out wide and a break from Sam again was
finished off by Liam Farrell. Pat converted for 36-32.
The "real time" clock was very hard to read from our
angle but when we realised over 6 minutes still remained we were
all delighted with that. It felt like it was far later in the game.
Their was more than enough time to win and by now we were holding
the ball, dominating possession and Rovers just couldn't cope.
The levelling try was almost inevitable and it was
fitting that it was the legendary partnership of Carmont and
Richards that claimed it. George did the initial donkey work but it
was Pat's pace to round Craig Hall that send the Wigan fans into
beer shower raptures. Our points difference meant that really a
draw would of done but Pat still went on to convert a not so easy
conversion to put us 38-36 ahead.
Amazingly their was still time for another score which
Josh Charnley finished in the right corner but even though Pat
missed the conversion, Wigan had somehow finished as 42-36 victors.
It was a total injustice to the Hull KR fans and team,
but the Rovers were absolutely first class at full time. I remember
two years ago when we won the shield at this same venue that they
were congratulating us and they were same here. The Wigan players
actually went across to acknowledge the home fans as they left the
field. That is the true spirit of Rugby League!
So Wigan proved again that they can win despite a poor
display BUT it's quite simple moving on, we won't get away with
that again this season. We need to be playing for 80 minutes like
we did in the last 25 minutes here, not like in the first 25. The
difference between retaining and being sloppy in possession in
I personally don't think it's a physical issue, they
don't look tired to me. Mentally though they are not "in the zone".
I found my zone in the Craven Park ground today. Stood in one place
we lost 30-0. Stood in another we won 42-4. Uncanny but that was
how it was, total coincidence or not. Find your zone Wigan and we
shall hopefully be reet!