WIGAN may have announced a raft of changes this week but it remained business as usual for the Super League leaders as they survived a Tom Lineham hat-trick to get the better of Hull.
In a news-heavy week, the Warriors have confirmed the arrival of rugby union international Andy Powell, the future departures of Gareth Hock, Lee Mossop and Pat Richards and the likely exit of star name Sam Tomkins. But if Hull had bargained on a split camp then they were given a rude awakening.
Powell was in the stands to watch his new team-mates move three points clear of Huddersfield, with Richards - who is heading back to Wests Tigers after eight point-laden seasons - kicking them to victory with six goals from as many attempts.
It came in the face of a spirited show from Hull, for whom rookie winger Lineham scored a second treble of the season but could not prevent a first defeat in five.
The Warriors have scored points for fun this season and on their last visit to East Yorkshire put 84 on Hull KR. So, when they set about scoring two quick tries, the signs looked ominous for the home side.
Blake Green had already sent out a warning with a dart that was stopped by an ankle tap, but with 13 minutes gone Iain Thornley barrelled his way over for a 10th of the season - although the home fans claimed a forward pass in the build-up.
Richards was not one to question the decision, though, and slotted the extras, before laying on a brilliant second for Tomkins.
The winger will be sorely missed when he returns down under - he has close to 2500 points for the club - while Tomkins too is widely thought to be heading to the NRL. They were both in Wigan shirts tonight, however, and the latter fed Richards, who burst through on the left and kicked ahead, where Tomkins grounded as part of an audacious forward roll in-goal.
His 19th try of the year was topped up by Richards but to their credit, Hull decided to dig in and when Lineham spotted a gap in Wigan’s normally watertight defence, he drilled his way into it.
There was no doubting that Wigan were rattled and when Tomkins failed to hit a set-move pass from Green, it showed. Hull sensed their chance and seconds before the break closed to within two points when Ben Crooks reached out to touch down after Liam Watts had gone close.
Words from coach Shane Wane clearly had an effect on Wigan during the break and six minutes after the restart they were in again, Matty Smith and Tomkins combining to send Josh Charnley in at the corner.
The try was not the prettiest on the eye but Wigan’s fourth certainly was, with Jack Hughes breaking from his own half and feeding Tomkins for a lightening 20th of the campaign under the posts.
As in the first half, though, a response was at hand, as Lineham got his second with 25 minutes left, swooping after Crooks got to Richard Horne’s kick ahead of Richards.
The winger has made quite the impression since breaking into Hull’s first team this season, and a second hat-trick of the campaign was not far away as he scrambled over the line after another pass from Crooks.
With Joe Westerman finding his range to kick a second goal, Hull were back to within four points at 24-20 and, so concerned were Wigan that when they got two penalties 30 metres out, Richards kicked them both rather than playing for a try.
The eight-point buffer was always going to be tough for Hull to erase and so it proved, as Wigan scrapped for their lives to hang on.