This was almost a carbon copy of last
weeks game against Castleford. The attack clunked for long
periods but resilience is high and they found a way to win
it in the end.
I find the resilience aspect really
pleasing. I make it five games now Wigan have won this year
despite having trailed at some point in the final twenty
minutes. They also won the match against Salford late from
a scores level position.
That shows plenty of bottle and this
strength could be the difference to winning trophies
compared to the last couple of years. A bit of maturity
from experience brewing in our youthful squad?
Wigan know they have seven massive
players they can recall as well, so to go top of the table
without that lot is a great achievement, even if it is only
for 24 hours.
The attack still grinds the heart of me
though if I'm honest. It's so frustrating because their are
many aspects of Wigan's play that please me. Defence is
great, apart from a couple of youthful missed tackles in
this game but that is a learning curve in my view, whilst
the pack effort is good also. Lee Mossop and Taulima Tautai
are performing better this year I think whilst Greg Burke
is putting in some great shifts every week.
But once Wigan get down to the try line
the attack just stutters. I felt in this game that Dan
Sarginsons passing was too wayward and that wasted
potential overlaps. His link play isn't hitting the mark
either. I mean I punched the desk in front of me when he
gave that offload away at 19-18 up late in the game. Should
of been a simple pass and he delayed ten minutes before
passing when it should never have been.
Sam Powell has been guilty of some low
passes from dummy half also in the last fortnight but I've
some sympathy for him. He's put in some mightily long
stints these last few weeks and I think he's gasping for a
breather. I've certainly been one in the past suggesting
Micky McIlorum could do 80 minutes in big games but it's
tough to do every week. We simply haven't had options to
help Powell but I wonder if Sean O'Loughlin can be used in
that capacity next week, if he returns as hinted at by
Shaun Wane after this game?
I thought in the match itself that the
attack actually started really well. They were sharp from
the off even if it took an offload by Josh Charnley and a
scrappy nudge kick forward by Anthony Gelling for him to
get over the line. It was important to convert territory
into a score and Matty Smith's conversion made it 6-0.
Huddersfield had started like a side
that was holding a white flag of surrender, Wigan looking
ominous to stretch out to 10-0 at least, but once the
Giants found a try from deep to respond they settled down
into the game.
Nice break from Leroy Cudjoe and Ryan
Brierley was in excellent support to finish under the
sticks. I said on twitter that I thought Nick Gregson had a
good game here but replies came in that suggested his
defence was a bit suspect. It certainly was for this score
because Cudjoe swatted his attempted tackle off far too
easily. Weak to say the least.
But he's a young kid and I felt that
Cudjoe and Jermaine McGillvary smelt a little bit of blood
against Gregson, Oliver Gildart and Lewis Tierney on that
side but in the main they muscled up to do a pretty decent
job in the rest of the game, especially considering the
vast difference in experience. I remember one text book
tackle from Gildart in particular.
So, Brough had converted and it was now
6-6 and from that the Giants grew and Wigan's early good
signs of attack began to revert to the type we've seen most
of the season so far.
In fact the Giants took the lead before
half time with a quality reverse kick from Brough being
finished by Brierley under the posts. Easy conversion put
them 12-6 in front.
Now Paul Anderson has screamed after the
game at what he perceived to be a change of refereeing
style at half time but I'd perhaps question if they were
too negative? The Giants were now playing well but rather
than go for further tries, Brough twice attempted drop
goals. One hit the post before half time and another early
second half was blocked by Tony Clubb. Shaun Wane suggested
one Wigan eventually kicked was too soon but these attempts
were even earlier than ours.
I do have sympathy that the two sin
binnings that would follow were tough for his side's effort
in this game but the decisions were not wrong. I did think
that referee Joe Cobb was pretty quick to give a team
warning if I'm honest but to commit a high tackle and get a
yellow card show within eight seconds of the warning must
be a world record like Dean Hatton's fastest try world
record for Wigan St Pats.
Straight after that yellow, Wigan got
level with John Bateman scoring a soft close range try and
Smith converting for 12-12.
The next set option from Wigan grated me
though. We had got level and the Giants were a man down but
Smith on the last and only 40 out puts in a drilled kick
that doesn't even find touch in the field of play and
trickles dead for a 20 metre restart. I didn't understand
the negativity of that play and quite honestly I felt it
deserved to be punished when the Giants scored a great try
Questionable Wigan defence again on that
right edge but also some super passing and eventually
Brierley was in for his hat-trick. Brough converted to put
them 18-12 up.
You wondered now if Wigan had the
strength to come back again but although Huddersfield
survived the remaining six minutes of the sin bin, Wigan
kept trying and eventually Smith jinked his way through for
an excellent try with 13 minutes to go. This was his first
try in 26 appearances at DW Stadium since the 2014 play off
against Huddersfield. He also converted to level up at
I've often talked about game management
this season but I wonder if Wigan have finally learned the
lesson that saw them fail at Old Trafford last October. We
built up to a drop goal superbly with direct play up the
middle and Lee Mossop in particular put in two excellent
drives. Smith slotted one over on 70 minutes to equal Andy
Farrell's club record of 19 for the club.
Then Huddersfield got a second yellow
card after Aaron Murphy was guilty of holding down after a
good Wigan break by Gelling. Clear decision but just when
you felt that would be enough to put Huddersfield to bed
they got up the other end to find a levelling drop goal
from Brough for 19-19. Sarginson gifting them possession
with an offload was shocking in the circumstances of the
Still six minutes remained and Wigan
kept their composure, just like away at Hull, to set up for
another one pointer with three minutes remaining. That saw
Smith now set a new club record for drop goals with his
20th one pointer in 137 appearances.
Had Wigan held on to this 20-19 lead
then we would have been surely the first side in history to
have gone top of the league table with a negative points
difference but alas that wasn't to be the case.
Despite Gelling letting the ball bounce
on the inevitable short kick off, we managed to get
possession and found a try to seal the game. Sarginson
finished after good initial work by Gelling and Charnley.
Smith converted to wrap up a 26-19 win that sent Wigan top
of the table for 24 hours at least.
Huddersfield's effort deserved better
than defeat but if that is a bottom of the table side then
Super League is getting stronger. In fact bottom of the
table has scored more points in attack than top of the
table. Again, I do wonder if this is a first in the history
of sport. It's bizarre and almost incomprehensible that
Wigan keep find ways to win with this attack but with the
potential of Sam Tomkins, George Williams and Dom Manfredi
back in the next fortnight then hopefully we will begin to
hit the higher notes. We shall see.