That was a frustrating last half an hour to watch in this game at
Hull KR. Wigan with a 20-6 lead didn't manage it at all well and
the last thirty minutes was pretty much a carbon copy of the Widnes
match, except we obviously lost this time.
It was a pretty funny
turnaround in fairness to have gone from 6-4 down to 20-6 up,
within four minutes of actual game time either side of half time,
but for me that was a perfect platform laid to push on and control
the rest of the game and like at Widnes, Wigan failed to do that.
What got me most was the average starting position of the Rovers
sets second half. I haven't seen a video back but they continually
seemed to be starting sets near half way whilst they had managed to
ensure we were pushed deep in our quarter when we started ours.
Most of that was by our own doing and the reality is that if you
keep gifting sides easy field position, your going to get punished.
Rovers basically ground us down in the end.
I certain think that the game was refereed far differently than
the Brisbane game, and Wigan struggled with a 13-8 count against
them, but more telling I think was drop outs forced was 4-0 in
Some of those drop outs were down to good Wigan defence but it
highlighted how Rovers cranked up pressure during the game and
completed sets well. I can't recall us having made them sweat
heavily in defence too often during that game.
That might sound a daft statement when you've scored four tries
but if you take those four tries out of the equation, I can't
recall Wigan pushing Rovers back on their own try line defensively
It took 24 minutes for the first score to occur and it was a
total gift. You could see what Joe Burgess was trying to do, a
trickling grubber from Darrell Goulding was heading dead but he
clearly wasn't aware of Ken Sio sneaking up on him to nick the try.
His focus seemed totally on the ball rather than the real danger,
which was the attacker, and he simply failed to control a situation
he was in full control of. Conversion from Josh Mantellato made it
Wigan had barely looked like scoring before that try but they
quickly responded off the back of a penalty twenty metres from
their own line. Matty Smith despatched it quickly to the touchline
and all of a sudden Wigan were on the attack with passing left
getting Burgess over in the corner. Smith failed to convert so it
was just 6-4.
Within the first half, Lee Mossop had made his return off the
bench and I thought he was excellent with a good initial half hour
stint either side of half time. He capped it off with a try on 37
minutes to the left of the posts which Smith converted for a Wigan
lead of 10-6.
Then amazingly Wigan scored another with ten seconds left of the
half, this time Josh Charnley scoring in the right corner despite
having to collect a pass off the ground from Ryan Hampshire. Smith
couldn't convert this time but Wigan somehow went in the sheds with
a 14-6 lead when I'd have been more than happy to take just 6-4
Rovers would have been a bit stunned by that but it was nothing
compared to Wigan's start to the second half. In almost a replica
of the move against Brisbane, Burgess breaks from 80 metres out
down the left wing and finds George Williams with an pass on the
outside. Williams this time doesn't need to give the ball back to
Budgie, he finished himself under the posts and that move saw a
touchdown after just 30 seconds of the second half. Smith converted
for a 20-6 lead.
Those quick fire tries evoked memories for me of our cup tie at
this ground back in 2013 when a 4-0 Rovers lead on 35 minutes had
been turned into a 34-4 deficit by the 54th Minute.
I suppose you have to credit Rovers for not going under from
this point onwards but it was another stroke of fortune that got
them on the comeback trail. Wigan second half were playing into the
strong wind and a bomb from Matty Smith ended up blowing backwards
from the Wigan chasers and Ken Sio scooped the ball up to return it
towards the try line. Wigan did manage to scramble back to stop him
initially but he eventually claimed his second score of the game
and although the conversion missed, it was now 20-10.
Then when Adam Walker scored on 56 minutes it was now 20-16
after Mantellato converted and it really was game on again.
Much as I'm frustrated with Wigan's play in the final half hour,
Rovers had to be credited for their substitutions in particular. I
thought Graeme Horne mad some good impact for them as substitute
hooker and during the latter stages Chris Chester introduce Kieran
Dixon who's pace late in the match was an excellent option against
clearly tiring Wigan defence.
It was him actually who got Rovers in front with 8 minutes to
go. He scored to the left of the posts and the conversion from
Mantellato put Rovers into a 22-20 lead that they didn't let go of.
Wigan might have come back to nick the win but personally I
don't think they deserve it the way they ended the game. Shaun Wane
is quoted saying our set completion in the final quarter was down
at 22% and that says an awful lot. Rovers pinned us back late in
the contest and in a way showed us how to do it. We did get into
territory score with a minute to go but John Bateman's error
typified the afternoon in the end.
On the coach home I was listening to the debates being made
randomly by supporters and their was plenty of talk about how
opposition sides are clearly trying to niggle us this season.
At times I think Wigan have every right to stand up for themselves,
and it's not always something that will work against us, but
considering we had a good leads here and at Widnes, I struggle to
see what we could gain from getting involved in pushing and shoving
situations that they both sucked us into.
Even though punches are rarely thrown these days, those kind of
incidents can only fire players and most importantly the crowd up,
raising the tension. Surely our plan should be more to keep the
pace, tension and crowd noise down?
Anyway the end result was a loss. I can take that IF we bounce
back well with a good win at Castleford on Friday. That's the key.
The loss here was incredibly frustrating but let's see what the
response is because Castleford, having lost all three games so far,
are not that poor. It will be a huge test for us at their ground
and us Wigan fans will feel a hell of a lot better if we can pass
that challenge. We shall see what happens.