|This narrow defeat now means Wigan have lost four of their last six home matches, a remarkable statistic for a team still four points clear at the top of Super League.|
For me the lack of a Plan B is concerning. In certainly the last three of those four defeats Plan A of throwing everything at the opposition in the opening quarter and building up a commanding lead has failed. The theory might be the right idea but the reality is that it isn't working. So what is Plan B?
I'm noticing many theories about why we lost. Some saying that Huddersfield's aggressive tactics stifled us and Mr Bitter himself Garry Schofield reckons we bottled it yet again. All I say to that is these three defeats have not been must win games for us and in my view winning 12 of 13 league away games this year surely must show tremendous bottle?
I don't think Huddersfield's tactics got to us, for me it was more them being a bit more adventurous in attack. The first two efforts they scored got a couple of lucky bounces of the ball but that luck was well earned. The end bottom line on why we lost was far too many handling errors. The last tackle kick is what creates pressure and too often we made an error before getting to the kick.
Wigan were forced into a late change with Darrell Goulding pulling up injured in the warm up. Karl Pryce came in to play his first match since the St Helens defeat in June, whilst Stefan Marsh replaced Martin Gleeson who has undergone a hernia operation so he will be fully fit for the play offs.
First opportunity of the match fell to Wigan after Kevin Brown had knocked on but Andy Coley's handling error wasted it. Second set for Wigan though resulted in the opening try of the game. After receiving a "back to one", following a clear charge down of a Tommy Leuluai kick, Paul Deacon laid a bomb up towards the right corner and Karl Pryce out jumped David Hodgson to claim the score. Pat Richards missed a conversion that would prove costly at the end of the game.
Wigan had 80% of possession in the opening ten minutes but apart from the try they failed to complete any set. Andy Coley and Harrison Hansen were guilty of errors that let the opposition off the hook.
An attack smack on ten minutes saw Brett Hodgson clearly hold Sam Tomkins shirt whilst he was trying to support Harrison Hansen. Although Phil Bentham penalised the move, it should have resulted in a sin bin. It was clear as day on the sky tv replay. (Edit: Been pointed out that Michael Lawrence was also guilty of tugging Hansen's shirt when he trying to support - have we turned into football all of a sudden?)
The incomplete sets just kept coming for Wigan though. Stuart Fielden and Sean O'Loughlin guilty this time. So I make that four incomplete sets out of five. Not good enough! Fair enough their was plenty of wrestling going on at the ruck.
Huddersfield's first attack came in the 14th minute. A kick from Kevin Brown, from fourty metres out, bounced awkwardly but Karl Pryce did well to defend it.
It was looking like the Giants had done well to trap Wigan in their ten metre area but Sam Tomkins broke through poor defending, he drew the full back and passed to the supporting Richards. Pat made it to within ten metres of the try line but Bentham blew a penalty for another clear obstruction on Sam Tomkins. Kevin Brown tripped him up and this time the yellow card was shown.
From the penalty an almighty fight was sparked after Keith Mason stamped on Stuart Fielden's ankle at the play the ball. Fielden got up giving verbal to the wrong bloke, to which Mason charged at Fielden when he should have been ten metres back with the referee. I also thought it was pathetic how Mason walked away from the flying fists after sparking that brawl.
That biff goes back to the post match comments made by Huddersfield coach Nathan Brown after the Murrayfield Magic clash back in May. In which his specifically said Keith Mason would be "under instructions" to protect their "small players". Mason was certainly putting it about when the sides met at Galpharm Stadium two weeks later but whilst rising to the challenge would be very commendable, that stamp from Mason was poor. He should have been sent off. In the end he was sin binned along with Stuart Fielden. Not sure what Fielden actually did wrong in that incident. If he was binned for fighting then Darrell Griffin should have gone for ten as well.
Anyway after that Huddersfield were down to eleven men for eight minutes with Wigan having twelve men. The penalty went to Wigan and guess what they did, they failed to complete yet another set. Not good enough.
The first real pressure from Huddersfield came after a Sean O'Loughlin knock on in his own half (yes another incomplete set!) but Karl Pryce spared his blushes with a superb tackle to put David Hodgson into touch.
From that a Thomas Leuluai pass on the half way line got Joel Tomkins on a clean break. He had Paul Deacon in support but sadly he just didn't have enough pace and his pass to support went to ground. So that's another incomplete set. So 20 minutes in and 1 complete set (i.e the try) I think it is. That's why we lost this game.
Kevin Brown was just returning from the sin bin when Wigan finally completed another set but Paul Deacon's kick was poor.
Whilst Mason's stamp should be condemned, I think Nathan Brown was quite clever in substituting him when he was eligible to return. He employed exactly the same tactic at Galpharm Stadium. Got Mason to try and rile us up and then withdrew him out the action. It worked in the sense that when he did return the heat of the incident had been forgotten.
Both sides had returned to full strength but Wigan's inability to complete sets continued. Sean O'Loughlin guilty again on the half hour. The weather was perfect so their is no excuse for this poor play. Wigan should have been at least 18-0 up by now.
Huddersfield had a great chance to score next but again they had to create it from inside their own half. Lovely kick to the right wing from Brett Hodgson saw Leroy Cudjoe go on the burst and he had support from Luke Robinson and Lee Gilmour who found David Hodgson on the wing. Hodgson hacked on but Leuluai just did enough to deny him.
Wigan then went up the other end to finally claim a second try. An excellent bomb from Deacon saw Pat leap above both Michael Lawrence and Cudjoe and Joel Tomkins picked up the loose ball for an easy try. Pat then converted to make it 10-0.
That took the sides into half time. Amazingly the stats on Sky at half time showed 59% completion from Wigan whilst Huddersfield was 54%. The key thing is that six of the errors from Wigan came under the shadow of the posts.
Into the second half and the game became much more even. For long periods it was a midfield stalemate. The referee was not blowing up anymore. Wigan did force a drop out on 47 minutes but O'Loughlin came up with yet another knock on!
Soon after that Sam Tomkins almost claimed a try after a kick from O'Loughlin. His grubber to the right corner was muffed by David Hodgson but he knocked on trying to ground the ball. Unlucky.
Huddersfield should have been blown away well before now but all those errors kept them in the game and they began to smell victory. Especially when Cudjoe claimed the first try of the second half in the 54th minute. After forcing a drop out, Lawrence broke down the right wing, Sam Tomkins did well to stop him but going into touch his desperate pass ended bounced very kindly and Riddell couldn't take it. It fumbled into the in goal and Cudjoe claimed the try and Brett Hodgson's conversion made it 10-6. It was a lucky bounce from the desperate pass but that fortune turned the game.
Up the other end Wigan had forced another drop out after an Huddersfield error but I don't even need to tell you what happened. Liam Farrell the guilty man, although it was a crap pass to him in fairness.
On the hour Huddersfield scored again and this try also needed some luck. David Hodgson broke down the left and put in a poor kick inside to no one. It bounced kindly again for them though, Leuluai couldn't take it, Luke Robinson picked it up and got over in the corner. He threw two dummies that fooled Stefan Marsh and just about made the try line. Brett Hodgson converted to give them a 12-10 lead with twenty minutes to go.
For me Wigan had gone. They never looked like getting back into the contest. They should have won the game by now but had been punished into chasing a game. When you've had it so easy for most of the game, it's hard to start chasing a game all of a sudden.
But a world class try by Sam Tomkins, from nothing, gave Wigan hope of victory again. If their is a better Rugby League try than this one in 2010 I want to see it. From his own 20 he beat poor marker defence from Michael Lawrence, then burnt off full back Brett Hodgson and an attempted tackle attempt from Kevin Brown to raced all the way to the try line. He comically celebrated in front the closed North Stand, what a shame he hadn't scored it up the other end. That try shows the quality he has. It would have been a worthy winner of the game but alas it wasn't to be.
Richards had converted to make it 16-12 but Huddersfield scored again on 71 minutes which won the game. Danny Brough's chip kick to the right was well collected by Cudjoe who claimed his second try. Brett Hodgson's conversion made it 18-16 to the Giants and Wigan never looked like coming back from that.
In the remaining minutes Wigan had two chances but both ended in, yes you know the answer already, handling errors.
So a lesson for Wigan. We need to keep hold of the ball and reach the last tackle. In the play offs the last tackle options will probably decide the games. So we need big improvements their.
Bit galling that the Phil Bentham hoodoo continues. Five of our six defeats this year have been with him in charge. He was not to blame for this one though. This report will have made clear what's to blame and the players all need a new set of fingers each.
The result means Wigan have still yet to seal 1st place. They still remain four clear and can only be beaten on points difference but Hull KR is a tough away trip next week. Rovers have won 7 home games on the trot in a run stretching back to Good Friday but Wigan's away winning streak in the league goes back even further to March 5th (11 games) so it should be a hum-dinger at Craven Park. If Wigan handling the ball like this game though, it'll be a bum-dinger!