Wigan Warriors went top of Super League after a battling 16-16 draw with Huddersfield Giants. On a real windy, lacklustre afternoon down at the DW, the Warriors had to come from behind three times to salvage a draw against a spirited Giants team.  

VERY FLAT GAME OF RUGBY

This was one to forget for Wigan fans, it was flat from the get go, and never looked like improving. It was a very disjointed looking Warriors side, who struggled to start any form of attack, and looked rather weak in defence at times. It was a very surprising performance, as Wigan, while they’ve never been at their best, have looked good this season, scoring plenty of points. However, today it just didn’t happen.

Just two minutes into the game, Wigan were on the attack, and a Sean O’Loughlin pass was intercepted by Jermain McGillvary, who was stopped inches from the line by a lung-bursting effort from Anthony Gelling. However, it was all for nothing as Lee Gaskell dove over from the play-the-ball to put Giants ahead. After this try, even so early in the game, there was a sense that this was going to be a long afternoon.

Wigan didn’t respond too well, giving away soft penalties, and cheap yards to the Giants. In an amazing chain of events, Danny Brough hit the post with a penalty goal attempt from right in front of the sticks, just 20-yards out. Wigan would regain the ball, and go up the field to level the match through Morgan Escaré. It was a crazy minute or so, one in which should’ve galvanized Wigan, but it didn’t.

Wigan would never be in front during the whole game, which was a testament to the Giants, but also a real criticism of the Warriors performance on the day. Huddersfield would retake the lead in the 19th minute when, on the last, they played the ball out wide, and Darnell McIntosh would force his way over for the try. It was a real soft try to concede for Wigan, one Wane would not be happy with. 

WAY OFF THE MARK

Wigan responded again, when on his debut, young Tom Davies got over for his first Wigan try. It was a real highlight on what was a flat day for Wigan. Yet another academy player came into the fold and got on the scoresheet. In the last two games, Liam Marshall, Jack Wells and now Tom Davies have come in and made a name for themselves, with a try in the first team, it says a lot about the youth academy at Wigan Warriors.

Escaré would miss the conversion, so Wigan still trailed 10-12. In the last 10 minutes of the half, it was all Giants, as they had set after set on the Wigan line, only to be kept out. After two drop-outs, Wigan’s discipline went sour, and they gave away a soft penalty, which Brough took advantage of and kicked at goal. He wasn’t to make a mistake this time as the ball sailed over and Huddersfield went into halftime 14-10 up.

Wigan needed to up the tempo in the second half, and they got off to a perfect start, when from the scrum, the ball was shifted out wide to Anthony Gelling who flew through the Giants defence to level the game up once more. It was a real windy afternoon down at the DW, and Escaré struggled with the kicks out wide, as he missed another. This proved to be costly at fulltime, but in the conditions, you can’t put too much blame on his shoulders.

The second half was just like the first, flat. Both sides never really got anything going, as a handling error, forward pass or a penalty would bring the game to a halt, and just slow the whole thing down, which just played into the Giants’ hands. Minutes after levelling the game, Wigan would gift the Giants the lead again, with another penalty, that Brough took advantage of, and kicked them 16-14 ahead.

GIANTS HAD A GREAT GAME-PLAN

Huddersfield obviously had a gameplan, one in which they wanted to take control of the ruck speed and control the game, and they played it to perfection. Some will say it was a rather poor tactic, as they continued to slow Wigan’s play-the-ball down, and pushed it right to the limit at times. Wigan tried to do the same, but got caught out by the referee on too many occasions, which only frustrated them further.

Wigan came closer to scoring in the final 20 minutes, but just didn’t have that final product to get them over the line. In the 62nd minute, Wigan had an easy shot at goal following a penalty, but decided to run it, and failed. That would’ve levelled the game up at the time. About 10 minutes later, they had the same choice, and following loud outbursts of “twoooo” from the fans, chose to kick at goal, and Escaré levelled the match up at 16-16.

With about seven minutes to go, both sides had chances to win the game. Wigan would knock-on from the resulting kick-off and it seemed set that Brough would kick the drop-goal. However, Rapira would drop the ball in the build-up and let Wigan off. There was a huge sense of relief from the Wigan fans, who were expecting the worse. The match didn’t really deserve a winner, it had been that poor.

However, Wigan would get their chance with minutes remaining, but it wasn’t to be a heroic finish from them, as Sam Powell’s drop-goal attempt would drift wide. Gifting Huddersfield another chance, in good field position. With only a minute left, Brough had his shot, but it was charged down brilliantly by Wigan and Brough scuffed his kick and that ended the game, as Wigan held on for a point, which sent them top of Super League.

MORE INJURIES FOR WIGAN

Wigan went into this game with ten players missing through injury, with some being long-term. As the team was announced, it was noted that Liam Farrell would be a late withdrawal from the squad, as he suffered a calf strain in England training on Monday. To make things worse, there hadn’t been 10 minutes gone in the game with Huddersfield when Sean O’Loughlin and Jack Wells both left the field with match ending injuries. Wigan had to play the remaining 70 minutes with just two substitutes, having lost their captain as well.

It was reported after the game that O’Loughlin was brought off because of a calf injury and Jack Wells rolled his ankle in a tackle. Wigan just seem to have no luck with injuries at all. They struggled through last season, with a depleted squad, and it looks like they’ll have to do the same again. They now have 13 players out injured, when you look at a stat like that, I don’t think any other side would be undefeated this season.

Wane stated that both O’Loughlin and Wells would be assessed this week, but at this stage, it looks like the only player who may be back in time for their next game against Hull, will be Oliver Gildart. The rest are still a bit off the pace yet. After taking a step back and looking at what players are missing, it seems rather harsh to complain about a point against Huddersfield.

Wigan are currently sat top of Super League, undefeated as World Champions, with 13 first team players out injured. This is the current injury list… Sam Tomkins, Lewis Tierney, Joe Burgess, Oliver Gildart, Dom Manfredi, Nick Gregson, Jake Shorrocks, Ryan Sutton, Michael McIlorum, Joe Bretherton, Liam Farrell, John Bateman and Sean O’Loughlin. I mean, it’s not a bad team, is it?

 POST-GAME MEDIA

Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:

“I thought we were lucky to get away with it to be honest.

“What the players need to understand is when we have a bit of adversity like that not much changes with the way we attack, but we just felt a little bit sorry for ourselves.

“It was a dour game on a Sunday afternoon and the weather was poor. I think we fell into the trap and didn’t lift ourselves.”

Huddersfield Giants head coach Rick Stone:

“I think if we could have held our composure at the end we could have managed it.

“Obviously with Kruise getting sent to the sin-bin that didn’t help our cause, but there was probably a few scenarios before that we could have managed a bit better.

“Hopefully we’ll learn from it. We defended pretty well, scrambled hard for each other in the last 10 or 15 minutes, so hopefully we take some positives out of that.”

 IN THE SHEDS

Wigan Warriors lost Sean O’Loughlin (calf) and Jack Wells (ankle) after just eight minutes. Both players didn’t return and will be assessed this week.

Huddersfield Giants had Kruise Leeming sent to the sin-bin in the 66th minute for a high tackle on Tom Davies.

FINAL SCORE

Wigan Warriors: (10) 16

Tries: Escaré, Davies, Gelling

Conversions: Escaré 1/3

Penalties: Escaré 1/1

Huddersfield Giants: (14) 16

Tries: Gaskell, McIntosh

Conversions: Brough 2/2

Penalties: Brough 2/3

MATCH DETAILS

Wigan Warriors: Escaré; Davies, Gelling, Isa, Marshall; Williams, Leuluai; Nuuausala, Powell, Flower, Tomkins, Wells, O’Loughlin.

Replacements: Clubb, Tautai, Navarette, Forsyth.

Huddersfield Giants: McIntosh; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Mellor, Murphy; Brough, Gaskell; Rapira, Leeming, Ikahihifo, Roberts, Ta’ai, Clough.

Replacements: Smith, Dickinson, Hinchcliffe, Wakeman.

Attendance: 12,704

Referee: Chris Kendall

Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan

Date/Time: Sunday 19th March 2017 – 15:00pm GMT