vultures will be swooping around the DW Stadium after this massive
second half collapse but I am genuinely not too disheartened.
Quins proved tonight that they are not a bottom of the table side.
They proved to be a different outfit to the side that has
struggled all season. I mean the recent return of the experienced
Luke Dorn and Rob Purdham have been two new signings for Brian
McDermott. Dorn was making his first league appearance of the
campaign, whilst Purdham has only played in two league games up to
now. Then you add in the loan signing of speedster Kevin Penny
from Warrington and it all adds to a brighter season ahead for the
London based side, despite their lowly league position.
Wigan meanwhile went into the game without seven key players. Amos Roberts, Martin
Gleeson, Thomas Leuluai, Andy Coley, Harrison Hansen, Paul Deacon
and Darrell Goulding were all injured. Those absences proved too much of a hole for us to fill,
especially when Stuart Fielden, Liam Farrell and Shaun Ainscough
all went off, or struggled on, injured during the crucial last
Those pre match injuries meant we had to recall Ainscough from
Castleford and Jonny Walker came back from Blackpool to make his
debut. Liam Farrell made his first career start, whilst switching
from their usual positions were Phil Bailey who switched to
centre, Sean O'Loughlin to Stand Off, Sam Tomkins to Scrum Half
and Lee Mossop to loose forward.
The reason why I remain so upbeat is that we almost won despite
the injuries and shuffling of positions. In my view we lost this to lack
of luck more than anything. It wasn't a Noble type performance in
which we kept making handling errors. Two crucial decisions,
whilst the game in the balance, both went
against us, and that is why we lost.
First Liam Farrell looked to have grounded the ball for his
hatrick but was given held up. Then a nice kick from Sam Tomkins
saw Kevin Penny flap at the ball and Sean O'Loughlin recover for a
back to one a metre out, that a quick play the ball would have
resulted in a try. But referee Phil Bentham deemed a push on Penny
and Quins survived. Two crucial calls that went against us and
cost us the match in my view. Now I don't blame the referee. They
were fifty-fifty calls and we just needed something, but it didn't
come. What you could criticise the referee for is not sin binning
an Harlequins player after they had conceded five penalties in a
row during one attack. Their was at least two professional fouls
in that spell. Again we just needed a break, but it didn't come.
You still can't excuse the poor defence, but those that didn't
come to the match will see Harlequins rip us to bits from deep
when they see the video. They had nothing to lose and they just threw the ball about, which stuck
every time. On another night they would have been scrumming down
for handling errors time and again but tonight it just kept sticking. They just had a gold dust night. Everything went for
them, but I suppose they played well enough to create that luck.
The writing though for Wigan has been on the wall for a few
weeks. We have put a massive effort into the last few weeks and
it came back at them tonight. 7 key squad members out and we
looked tired, very tired. Quins just had more zip in them. They
also benefited from a flat atmosphere. 18,600 Wiganers were
opposed by about 6 opposition fans. Not good for creating noise!
Even though Wigan would build up a 24-6 half time lead,
personally I smelt an upset early on. Harlequins took the lead on
just 7 minutes after the superb Danny Orr had forced a drop out.
Then Orr put up a kick to the corner which saw Will Sharp bat back
to allow David Howell to score. Clear tactic straight away, they
were going to test Shaun Ainscough and in truth he struggled. Orr
converted to make it 6-0.
Quins almost increased that lead with Kevin Penny going close
but Wigan managed to claw themselves into the game. Lovely try as
well with Liam Farrell putting in a perfect run to score in the
left corner. Richards converted 6-6.
Three minutes later, Wigan took the lead for the first time.
Cameron Phelps finished off close to the sticks and Pat converted
to make it 12-6.
With half time approaching Quins began to look desperate for it
and Wigan scored two in the ten minutes before the break. After
two penalties, Sam Tomkins was looking very dangerous probing the
line and his efforts allowed Sean O'Loughlin to send Joel Tomkins
over from close range. Easy conversion for Pat - 18-6.
Then with four minutes left, Farrell claimed his second. Whilst
Quins chose to test Ainscough, Wigan were aiming for Kevin Penny
and it was his flap at a kick from Sam that allowed Richards to
bat back for Farrell to score again. Pat then converted to make it
24-6. To be fair to Penny, he isn't the first and won't be the
last to fail to deal with Richards in the air.
So at half time all looked well, but I say this almost every
week. First try second half is pivotal and sadly Wigan let in a
weak effort very early. I was just returning from the bar to see
Luke Dorn scoring in the left corner and Danny Orr converted to
make it 24-12.
Wigan had two chances to hit straight back. Mike McIlorum
knocked on with the line begging and then Bentham disallowed the
effort that would have seen Farrell claimed a well deserved
hatrick. It would have been a brilliant try as well. He burst
towards three men but didn't ground the ball according to the ref.
I said at the time "I've seen another Farrell do that! Very
reminiscent of his distant cousin Andy!
Quins managed to score again after forcing a knock on by
pushing at a scrum. This try conceded was terrible. From the
scrum, quick shift left and Dorn ghosted in again in, you guess
it, the left corner than Ainscough was defending. Not sure you can
totally blame him, he's an easy scapegoat, but the damage was all
down that side of the field. Orr converted to make it 24-18. You
could clearly see defeat coming at this point. We looked really
Wigan were now struggling for go forward but managed to dig
themselves into being within a chance to win the match. Helped by
about four penalties that really should have seen a sin binning.
It was on the fourth attempt that we decided to go for a penalty
goal. Easy in hindsight but it didn't look like a good decision at
the time. 26-18 to Wigan.
The game was now into the final quarter and the next try was
probably going to decide the game. Wigan should have trapped Quins
on the last in their own half but they offloaded time and again to
allow Danny Orr to break. Huge overlap on the left was spotted and
he kicked into the space which allowed Will Sharp to collect and
score. Orr then converted to make it 26-24.
Wigan needed a calm head but it was lacking. Sam had done well
with his kicking game up to now but I do recall a shocking last tackle option from him in the late stages.
Overall though, his kicking had been outstanding. Just a shame his
night will be remembered for that one error. It was also around
this point that we had that "pushing" call on Kevin Penny go
against us. That was a huge decision, had it gone our way it would
have been our game. Again I'm not saying it was a wrong call, but
it was a crucial call.
What really didn't help Wigan was first Phelps, then Joel
throwing interceptions when half breaking near the line. Both went
straight into Harlequins hands. Again these small bits of luck
against us just highlight how close we were to winning this one,
and this is why I'm not disheartened. We also had Stuart Fielden
got off with a blood injury, the superb Farrell went off with
cramp and Ainscough was limping away on the left wing. Did Feka
not return late on either? It just was all working against Wigan!
Eventually these errors/bits of bad luck went punished with
Quins looking to have all the fresh legs against a tired Wigan
outfit. Penny broke clear up the middle and Rob Purdham was in
support to score under the sticks. Orr easy conversion made it
Wigan still pressed but this was destined to be Harlequins day
and they sealed a remarkable win with a late try from Chad
Randall. Again a break up the middle, with pace just being too
much for Wigan. Orr converted then added a late penalty goal to
leave the final score 38-26.
Now losing to the bottom of the table is disappointing but
let's not forget what a beast of a month we have endured. Signs
had look ominous that defeat was near back to Salford two weeks
ago. The back to back wins over Leeds and St Helens, plus injuries
to key men, have left us struggling. To our credit we still came
close to not losing despite that! In the end it came, but it was
more likely to be honest than a defeat would come when it was
least expected. Who would have predicted Salford would have gone
to Headingley and beaten league leaders Leeds last Easter? It
happens. The key is how you bounced back to defeat. When we lost
to Bradford we bounced straight back with a superb performance.
It'll be a hell of a task against Huddersfield in Edinburgh, but
that match gives us a big chance to re-cement our title
Conceding 74 points in two games though is very worrying. Even
though I look on tonight's disappointment as a pint half full,
rather than half empty, defence is a real concern at the moment.
But we are still two points clear, we shouldn't forget that. We
should also recall Leeds struggling when having key men injured
recently. It's hard to cope with against any side!
Well done Harlequins though. Superb show. Deserved the win
and that could well prove to be a win that keeps your franchise
alive in truth. Different side as I said with the key personnel
back. They'll quietly fancy taking on Hull FC next week after
tonight's display. Just looking at the result of tonight's Sky
game (Hull 12 Wakefield 8), think they made a big boo-boo missing
our game. They really need to stop picking their matches so far in
advance. The TV quality of games has been piss-poor!
excellent effort from Wigan to get 18,605 through the door which
included less than 10 away fans. Awesome effort that! Emotional
tribute to the troops pre match as well. They bugled the
"Last Post" before a minutes silence in respect of those that
perished in Afghanistan and other wars before now. The tribute
confused fans though who assumed the bugling was part of the minutes
silence, when the reality was the period of silence followed
after. A real shame that, but a nice tribute nethertheless.