That was a
final of fine margins in the end that wasn’t it? So close,
but yet so far.
In the end
though I felt Wigan just lost it on experience. That might
sound a bit daft when we are playing a third Grand Final in
a row but compared to Leeds their is a massive difference
between the two sides.
Sinfield, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow and Jamie Peacock all
played against Wigan thirteen seasons ago!! You
cannot buy experience like that. It is huge. Especially
when the majority of it is “in club” experience as I call
this to Wigan and Sean O’Loughlin aside we are miles away.
That’s just the way the cycle goes sometimes. When those
four were playing thirteen years ago, Wigan were just about
to lose Farrell, Cassidy, O’Connor and Radlinski, it took
us years to recover from that.
need to go away now and learn the lessons from this defeat.
Lessons that will be more valuable I think than last year’s
loss to St Helens.
lesson to take is learning to protect your lead far better
than we did in this final. The 6-0 lead early on was lost
within two minutes. Then the 20-16 lead just after the hour
was also lost within two minutes. Small things in the
grand scheme of 80 minutes but they are huge reasons why we
going for two on 62 minutes was a bad decision. That is
easy in hindsight but at the time I thought it was the
right call. Leeds did look knackered and the idea was that
we’d take the penalty goal to level option away from them.
was, like I said, that lead didn’t last long. We found
ourselves behind again within two minutes and it’s from
this point forward that I’d accuse Wigan of their biggest
naivety, not when they took penalty option.
naivety being that Wigan did not seem to realise that
another penalty goal would get them level. Penalties can be
kicked from anywhere inside an opponents half whilst tries
obviously require you to get up to the line. You need to
get up to penalty kicking range in the first place though.
Not once in
that last spell did we go direct enough. Our mindset seemed
to be that we needed a try to win the match and were
chucking left and right looking for space to hit through.
Not once did we think about get in range first and then see
what we can do.
into the Leeds half would have brought penalty goal into
option, should one be gifted, or otherwise an option to
create fear on the last with a kick. Pressure can create
mistakes, even to the most experienced of players but we
never got into that kind of position.
watch the winning try for Leeds. Watkins run direct first
Tackle before Garbutt goes direct on the second Tackle.
Walters hits up third tackle before the fourth sees Burrow
having scoot before passing for Ablett hits it up and
offloads to get Sinfield a few more metres. Sixty metres
gained saw the last tackle set up in good kicking position.
Good kick and and although I wouldn’t criticise Manfredi
for the error, a failure to catch saw Leeds find a try.
Never did they panic. Never did they go wide. They stuck
around the middle of the field the whole set. It was all
about territory. Wigan never realised that late on. . That
for me is probably the biggest lesson for us to learn for
this narrow defeat.
though, once Leeds got to 22-20 I knew we’d lost. Quarter
of an hour still remained but they are absolute masters of
protecting a slender lead. During that time they pinned
down with superb kicking and they never conceded a single
kicking in comparison was not the best. Everyone will
recall Tony Clubb ending up with the ball on the last late
on but earlier we had Joel Tomkins kicking on the last.
Again, small things in the grand scheme of 80 minutes but
massive errors in finals. Leeds were always set with the
right men in the right places at the right time. Wigan just
missed those marks 10% of the time and that was enough for
Leeds to get over the line. You just have to tip your hat
to them. A treble is a great achievement!
I wouldn’t criticise them too much. They were just short of
being both league leaders and champions in the end to a
side that have now won seven titles and two Challenge Cups
in the past twelve seasons.
for us this is the first time we will turnaround next
season without key men departing from the squad. That is
important. Joe Burgess is leaving but the wing is the least
of our worries and replacing Matty Bowen with Sam Tomkins,
if he finds his old form especially, is obvious
improvement, regardless of how well Mango did at the back
end of his Wigan career (our Old Trafford man of the match
for sure). Without Sinfield and Peacock I find it hard to
see Leeds being so strong again next time round and if we
learn the lessons from this, we should be stronger. Time