|This was an awesome 80 minutes from Wigan who once again proved that they have what it takes to win trophies this season. Ok nothing is won at this time of the season but yet again we produced a result from a match that we would definitely have lost last season.|
The big frustration was referee Richard Silverwood. Both sides conceded many penalties today, which often led to tries, but it was very galling to see us receive two sin bin periods whilst Huddersfield went unscathed. Especially when the penalty count was 12-10 in Wigan's favour! How can they concede two more penalties yet we get two sin bins to none? Doesn't make any sense to me!
Must admit I had a little chuckle in the car back to Rochdale (my friend "Gladys" gave me a lift from Hudds to Rochdale to meet a train back to Wigan) when a Saints fan on the BBC Radio Manchester phone in was giving the excuse that 5 absentee players caused their defeat at Salford yesterday. Well Wigan today, for a variety of reasons, went without Cameron Phelps, Amos Roberts, Martin Gleeson, Harrison Hansen and Feka Paleaaesina but still managed the win. It's a squad game and our strength in depth, in my view, is why we are top of the table. I think it showed today. Our bench proved to be stronger in a key part of the game. But I'll come onto that as I go through how the game panned out.
Bright sunshine met the sides at kick off, although their was a blustery wind that kept it a bit nippy for what must have been at least 2,500 Wigan fans in the shade of the "Pink Link Stand". Huddersfield's Danny Brough belting the kick off straight out on the full helped us to the perfect start.
Tommy Leuluai put the bomb up into the sun and the defender flapped at it under pressure from Richards. Pat didn't collect but Joel Tomkins did to score in the right corner after just 88 seconds. Having not kicked for two weeks Richards was back goal kicking today, although he first miss sailed wide.
Huddersfield soon hit back with the help of referee Silverwood. Back to back penalties got them on the line and the ball was swung to the right corner. Leroy Cudjoe looked a certain scorer but he didn't seem to want to take on Karl Pryce. Sadly he stepped back inside and took advantage of soft tackling to score anyway. Brett Hodgson converted to make it 6-4 Huddersfield.
Wigan responded to that set back with the best try of the match. On half way Sam Tomkins shimmed towards the left, found Pat Richards who made the half break to send Karl Pryce racing down the wing. I never fancied that the defenders would bundle him into touch but rather than take them on he hit George Carmont with a superb inside pass that sent him over. Pat converted to make it 10-6 to Wigan after 11 minutes.
Referee Silverwood helped Huddersfield back into the contest with another set of back to back penalties punishing Wigan. Ball was swung left and ex Warrior David Hodgson squeezed in the corner. Namesake Brett's conversion failed so the scores were level at 10-10 after 16 minutes.
At this point, the game started to become very niggly. Following Nathan Brown's comments after the game at Murrayfield two weeks ago Keith Mason had been targeted by the Wigan pack. Stuart Fielden I recall had nailed him early doors. Mason responded though with a late hit on Thomas Leuluai after he had offloaded the ball. It looked a clear revenge attack for the Sean O'Loughlin incident in Scotland but Silverwood did nothing about it except give a penalty. I can't quite remember if it was at this moment or shortly after but Pat kicked a penalty goal to put Wigan 12-10 ahead.
The big hits continued with Lee Gilmour being nailed by a Paul Prescott hit up. Perfectly clean but Gilmour was wobbly for a few seconds. Moments later Sam Tomkins was on the end of a big hit on a last tackle. It looked high to me and many other Wigan fans, although it was about 60 metres away from us. Silverwood responded by just offering the turnover.
Having seen both half backs on the end of suspect challenges the blood inside Wigan fans was at boiling point. Then to infuriate us further Joel Tomkins was sin binned for a high tackle on Paul Whatuira . Wigan had been warned next offence was a yellow card in fairness but it left us, rightly or wrongly, feeling harshly treated.
Huddersfield took full advantage within a minute as Paul Whatuira got over in the left corner. His try was at the away end of the field, and their was an eruption of "in touch" shouts. Other side of the pitch from me so I don't know but Silverwood gave the try. Brett Hodgson then converted off the touchline to regain the lead at 16-12.
Wigan continued on the back foot whilst down to twelve men. Cudjoe should have dived low for a try down the right wing but in my view shit himself when he saw Pryce in front of him. He was nailed into touch for his troubles, big let off for Wigan.
It was looking like Wigan would survive the rest of the sin bin without any more damage but just when Joel was returning to the field they scored again. Another conceded penalty helped them on the attack and down the left David Hodgson went over for his second. They were clearly targeting the wing defended by Darrell Goulding and Stefan Marsh and it was paying off. Brett Hodgson's conversion missed so Hudds let 20-12 with 7 minutes to half time.
Now I'll be honest, at 20-12 down I was still confident Wigan would come back and win. It looked to me that Wigan could score from deep if needed (proven by the Carmont try) whilst I felt the Giants seemed to need to get inside our ten metres with the help of penalties or forty-twenties to score. But for Wigan to get a try just before half time was a massive bonus for us.
Darrell Goulding scored it in the right corner. Nice hands and a long cut out pass created a huge overlap for him to crash over. Big conversion from Pat left the half time score 20-18 to Huddersfield.
Key for me was that after the big hits had been flying around the twenty five minute mark, Nathan Brown had removed both Keith Mason and Eorl Crabtree from the field. They were probably on the way to a red card in fairness so it was a good call but they wouldn't return until Wigan claimed two early second half tries. Luke Robinson, playing hooker today, was also off the field as well. This is what I mean about strength in depth. Huddersfield's substitutes didn't have half the go forward or impetus as the starters..
First score came after 5 minutes. Helped by a "back to one" Joel Tomkins went over for his second of the afternoon. Then after Leuluai had been held up, Andy Coley should great strength for a superb try. He had four men on him and he out muscled not only them but the post to plonk the ball on the line. Pat converted both tries to put Wigan 30-20 ahead.
It was looking like Wigan would kick on from here and rack up a comfortable win but a second sin bin stopped the momentum. Danny Brough had made a rare break down the left and having just scored Coley was guilty of holding him down too late. It was one of those situations were he was caught trying to hold down enough for the defence to get back. Silverwood binned him leaving us down to 12 for the second time which considering the opposition had not even received a warning for similar offences seemed harsh. At the same time Coley was binned we also lost Lee Mossop with a suspected dislocated shoulder.
In fairness we did ok during this period until Silverwood canned us three times to help Huddersfield get back into the game. The reintroduction of both Mason and Crabtree also played a big part with the latter claiming a try close to the posts on 61 minutes. Easy conversion for Brett Hodgson narrowing the lead to 30-26.
Then with Coley ready to return Danny Brough kicked a 40/20 which helped level the score. David Hodgson scored in the left corner to claim his hatrick but Brett couldn't convert leaving the scores level 30-30.
I still fancied Wigan though now they were back to full strength and they didn't let me down. I think Nathan Brown made a huge error in taking Crabtree back off the field because it allowed Wigan to get on the front foot. Darrell Goulding went over in the left corner and Pat showed his big game nerve with a beautiful touchline conversion. So it was 36-30 to Wigan with ten to play.
Huddersfield looked like they had levelled again moments later with Andy Raleigh scoring close to the sticks. But it was disallowed for a double movement! Opposite end of the field from me so I can't comment.
Wigan went up the other end and Pat tried to seal the game with a drop goal but his effort went wide. Hudds continued to press forward with the help of yet another penalty but despite forcing a drop out, good defence from Marsh and Goulding put Whatuira into touch.
Time was now Wigan's friend and into the last minute they received a penalty of their own. It was an easy slot over for Pat that made the final score 38-30. He proved his worth today because on the face of it the difference was goal kicking. Six tries each but four extra goals claimed the two points.
A draw may have been the fairest result but personally (maybe biased) if anyone deserved the win it was Wigan. Really pleased with a result that puts us four points clear at the top of Super League. Word of caution though. Last time we went four clear we lost our next game unexpectedly to Harlequins, so let's hope we can back this up away at Crusaders next Saturday.
Final note to praise Karl Pryce. Fought he showed up well today and may well have silenced a few of his harsh critics. Probably not though I suspect.