Hull FC went top of Super League, and became the first side to beat the 2016 Champions, Wigan Warriors, in a real battle down at the DW Stadium. Wigan showed some real desire to come from 22-0 down, but left themselves too much to do, and Hull held on for a 22-20 win.
A GREAT 10-MINUTE SPELL
There was an extra wait for this clash of champions match, as kick-off was delayed 15 minutes due to on-going traffic, that was keeping fans away from the ground. When the game finally got underway, it was a very bright start for Wigan. They had multiple sets on the Hull line, but the story of the first half was the lack of cutting edge near the try-line for Wigan. That mixed in with some great Hull defence, they just never looked like scoring.
Hull sustained the early pressure, and with their first set on the Wigan line, they punished the Warriors. It was a cross-field kick from Marc Sneyd, that perfectly found Steve Michaels, who was in acres of space, to dive over for the first try of the game. This try started a superb 10-minute spell for the black and whites, as they would go on to score another two tries.
Minutes later, Hull were in again. It was a brilliant solo effort from the in-form Albert Kelly. He found a gap through the middle of the Wigan defence and went for it. The Warriors thought they’d stopped him, but the halfback found his feet and dove over for the try. This was backed up with another great try. Hull sent the ball through the hands, and a quite remarkable inside ball from Sika Manu, found Jake Connors, who went over to give Hull an 18-0 lead after 23 minutes.
YOUNG LADS STRUGGLED EARLY ON
It was always going to be tough for Wigan. Coming up against a strong Hull side, who were in-form. Wigan had 13 first team players out through injury, and were continuing with the trust in their academy players. However, it felt like this would be a real tough night for some of the young lads. The wingers and centres in particular. Within the first 40 minutes, it was clear that was the case.
On the left edge, it was Liam Marshall and Liam Forsyth, while on the right edge it was Tom Davies and Anthony Gelling. Coming up against the likes of Mahe Fonua and Josh Griffin, who are big units, they were always going to struggle. I think there were at least three occasions when Wigan players were forced into touch, and that was the problem, as soon as they played it out wide, you knew they weren’t going far.
It’s something that Marshall and Forsyth will learn from, and as they get older, and bigger, they’ll come to cope with it more. The start to the second half was poor from Wigan, as Hull extended their lead after exposing the weakness on the wings, when a great break from Josh Griffin, was followed up by Jamie Shaul who had too much pace for Wigan and finished in the corner. Hull led 22-0 after 43 minutes.
DESIRE, GRIT AND DETERMINATION
As Wigan kicked off following the Shaul try, there was a sense of ‘how many’ from the Wigan fans. However, it wasn’t to be like that, and Wigan showed some great desire and passion, to give their fans something to cheer about. Forsyth seemed to be over for his first Wigan try, but it was ruled out for a knock-on. Minutes later, he was over again, and this time, it was a try. Forsyth got on the end of a Williams kick, to finish smartly in the corner.
Wigan continued to up their game, and started to worry the Hull defence. In the 68th minute, Marshall broke down the wing, and kicked a beautiful chip inside, which George Williams was on the end of, and Wigan now trailed 22-10. Then, two minutes later, after some great, quick hands out wide, Tom Davies dove over spectacularly in the corner to give Wigan hope. Escaré converted brilliantly, and Wigan trailed 22-16 with seven minutes left.
It was unbelievable effort from the Wigan players, and the comeback was nearly complete when in the 75th minute, a break from Tom Davies put Wigan in some great field position, and Marshall was in place to dive over in the corner. Escaré missed the chance to level up the game, with a real tough conversion. Wigan fans couldn’t believe what they were seeing, the fight and desire was to be applauded.
A STRANGE FEELING
Wigan had a couple of chances in the final moments to complete an unbelievable comeback, but it wasn’t to be for the depleted Warriors, as Hull held on for their lives, to complete a great 22-20 win away at the Champions. A win that takes them top of Super League. It was a great game to watch, and both sides deserve real credit. Both sets of fans made it a great atmosphere throughout, and the players thrived of that.
There was a real strange feeling following the defeat. As a Wigan fan, I left the game feeling rather happy, even though I’d just watched my side lose. I was so proud of the effort and fight that the lads shown in the second half, and there was enough there to leave the Warriors fans going home in a good mood, despite suffering their first taste of defeat this season. It would’ve been easy to feel sorry for themselves, and give in, but they fought on.
Hull fans will be leaving the DW with mixed emotions. They’ll be so happy with the win, but a bit worried about the collapse in the second half. Wigan were unlucky not to win the game in the end, and that alone should worry FC and their fans. They need to stay focused for the full 80, no matter what the score is, or whoever you’re playing. Wigan’s finish to that game will give them great confidence in their next game away at Leeds.
Wigan Warriors coach Shaun Wane:
“I’m proud of the players, I thought we were unlucky not to win tonight if I’m being honest. We were poor in the first half, we bombed chances and you can’t do that against Hull.”
“I wasn’t concerned with the half time score. We just needed to make the right calls. We created chances in that first half and I showed the players that at half time.”
“I thought the effort in that second half was fantastic. There’s lots to be positive about. The fans really got behind us tonight and I just wish we could have got something for them.”
Hull FC coach Lee Radford:
“It was a great result. First half defensively is as good as it gets. But if we needed to keep hold of it going into contact.”
“It could have been so much easier, but you don’t often come here and get a result. So I’m over the moon with that.”
“We lit a light and threw it in the petrol tank and hung on to dear life at the end. It was our fault with the errors we made and completing at 50% in the first half.”
IN THE SHEDS
Both sides came out of the game with a few knocks.
Wigan would lose Anthony Gelling (thigh) and Ben Flower (head) during the second half. Wane stated after the game that he expects both players to be fine for their next game.
Hull FC would lose, Danny Houghton in the first half and Jake Connors late in the second half. Nothing from Hull about the extent of their injuries.
Wigan Warriors: (0) 20
Tries: Forsyth, Williams, Davies, Marshall
Conversions: Escaré 2/4
Hull FC: (18) 22
Tries: Michaels, Kelly, Connor, Shaul
Conversions: Sneyd 3/4
Wigan Warriors: Escaré; Davies, Gelling, Forsyth, Marshall; Williams, Leuluai; Nuuausala, Powell, Flower, J Tomkins, Isa, Clubb.
Replacements: Tautai, Gregson, Bretherton, Navarrete.
Hull FC: Shaul; Fonua, Connor, Griffin, Michaels; Kelly, Sneyd; Taylor, Houghton, Bowden, Manu, Minichiello, Ellis.
Replacements: Green, Thompson, Washbrook, Matongo.
Referee: Phil Bentham
Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan
Date/Time: Friday 24th March 2017 – 20:00pm GMT