After a good pre season, I must admit I was confident of a good
start to the season here but Wigan began the defence of their title
with a flat display against Huddersfield.
Perhaps it shouldn't
have been a surprise. Wigan have now only won 2 of their last 9
home openers and Huddersfield have won 6 of their last 7 visits to
This performance unravelled pre match with first Sean O'Loughlin
withdrawing from the originally announced starting line up then
Mike McIlorum pulling up injured as well. Both had tweaked
ham-strings but I suspect with a World Club Challenge on the
horizon we were erring on the cautious side.
That disruption meant Ben Flower switched to loose forward and
Eddy Pettybourne started instead of being on the bench. That was a
switch that, for me, left us too weak on the bench.
McIlorum was clearly lame and whilst I appreciate Jack Hughes
will do a job for us at times, I'm not convinced by him as a
regular. Not the kind of impact that we require off the
interchange. I thought Pettybourne was quite disappointing also,
having impressed in the friendly at St Helens.
The other problem for Wigan was attacking flow. It was a pretty
unsettled back five and they didn't find any rhythm compared to
Huddersfield, who had 15 of 17 players who were regulars for them
It was the right result in the end BUT at 12-8 Wigan had a big
opportunity and it was so disappointing that we conceded within two
minutes of getting back to within one try. Clever though
Huddersfield at that kick off. They noticed McIlorum had come on,
kicked into the area of the field he was defending and caught him
very cold on the short kick off.
Soon as they got 18-8, the game was dusted. They lifted from
that and saw out the game comfortably.
Wigan had too many players lacking intensity and perhaps that is
understandable with the side making the long trip to New Zealand
less than 24 hours after the final whistle.
Shaun Wane is correct to point out that we had a similar defeat
to Huddersfield two weeks before Wembley last season, so we could
well click into gear for the World Club Challenge but we'll need to
play a hell of a lot better than this.
Matty Smith needs to find some variation in his kicking game
also. His tactic was to bomb the sometimes dodgy Aaron Murphy all
night but Murphy was dealing with it all. He needed to realise that
the plan wasn't working and change it. The one time he kicked
elsewhere, Jermaine McGillvary knocked on and we scored off it.
Wigan did have some minor positives. Thought Dan Sarginson had a
great second half. Never gave up on that result. Defence on that
side he and Iain Thornley defended though was a big concern.
Thought Joe Burgess took his try superbly.
All in all though, this was the right result. I know Wigan can
play far better and given our natural poor starts at home, it isn't
a big concern for me. Huddersfield did the basics better on the
night and were more clinical in attack. I just except that the
World Club Challenge is bound to be a distraction, especially given
its away in Australia. Players don't want to get injured and if
your 10% off your game mentality, a good team like Huddersfield
will punish.....and they did!