Poor game management saw Wigan almost chuck this one
away against Wakefield in their first match back after 149 days of
shutdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Switched to Headingley, Leeds and played in hot
conditions, both sides produced scrappy play throughout the contest.
Wigan had more territory early but ended up conceding
the first points of the game for the sixth time in eight games this
season when Tony Gigot kicked Wakefield 2-0 ahead in the 11th Minute.
Thomas Leuluai had rolled his ankle early in the game
and young Harry Smith off the bench soon provided a response for Wigan
by sending Zak Hardaker through a gap for his first try of the season on
14 minutes. He converted for 6-0.
A back injury to Bevan French saw a further switch
with him going onto the right wing with Zak back to Full Back and Dom
Manfredi budging in to centre.
It wasn't a trouble though when Hardaker grubbered
for French to claim his fifth try of the campaign in the right corner on
23 minutes. Zak couldn't convert - only 10-2.
The next period wasn't managed at all well by Wigan
who invited Wakefield back into the contest. It wasn't a surprise when
Kyle Wood scored, although the defense, which had been generally
excellent, suddenly fell apart to let Kyle Wood claim a soft try. It was
an easy conversion for Tony Gigot but he somehow hit the post and that
miss would prove costly later for the Wildcats.
Wigan's response though was swift with Jackson
Hastings grubbering perfectly for Liam Marshall to finish down the left
just before half time and his slight rounding towards the sticks helped
Hardaker convert for 16-6 at the break. That late score just about
making a fair reflection of the territory Wigan had.
When Jake Bibby scored his first Wigan try for 22-6
on 50 minutes that really should have been enough for Wigan to go on and
really gloss this result but again the game was managed poorly with
inexperience showing on occasion.
Wakefield gained momentum and two tries in five
minutes from Tom Johnstone and Liam Kay left Wigan sweating on a 22-16
lead with 9 minutes left to play.
Wigan had been starved of the ball for a while but
found some possession eventually and had set up perfectly for the drop
goal but Harry Smith showed his inexperience by going for a try on the
last from a couple of metres out. Sam Powell was seen berating him for
that dumb decision.
The berating worked. A couple of minutes later Smith
nailed a drop goal from 23-16 and with just 3:19 remaining you expect a
Nah! Wigan never win short kick offs. Wakefield claim
and quickly score - Liam Kay's second - for 23-22 with Max Jowitt's
conversion offering hope.
Still 2:21 remained and a drop goal would take us to
golden point but Wakefield's one chance was not close to the target and
Wigan saw out time to much relief.
A poor finish but this Wigan team is not the finished
article. It's still a growing side with a few youngsters who need and
will get wiser from experiences like this. They almost chucked it away
but if they keep getting into good winning positions in the first place
they will eventually start kicking on. And we are the league leaders
despite, I think, having plenty more to come.