Five things we learned from Wigan’s 39-26 loss at Hull FC...
1. In the last four games, Wigan have scored 24, 19, 30 and 26 points respectively. And not won any of the games.
No prizes for spotting where their problems lie.
For a side which prides itself on its tight defence, they are simply leaking too many points. Hull FC deserve praise, but they were helped all the way by the way the Warriors fell off tackles, failed to win the ruck and were flaky on the wings during a tired, soft opening.
2. In the second-half, at least, Wigan were spirited and out-scored their hosts five-tries-to-two.
Incidentally, all their touchdowns were scored by backs, and academy-products, too. Early in the second-half they reduced the gap to 12-points, but hopes of a comeback were quickly extinguished and Hull kept them at jabbing distance away until the end.
Liam Farrell figured in his 200th game for the club, and while he was one of the better performers, he was sinbinned for dissent during Hull’s first-half purple-patch. Wigan’s discipline frequently let them down, and they conceded 10 penalties before they were awarded one in their favour.
3. Injuries can’t be blamed for this one.
Sure, Wigan had a clutch of key players out including Sean O’Loughlin - who withdrew on game-day. But Hull FC had absentees of their own, including halfback Marc Sneyd, captain Gareth Ellis and senior players Scott Taylor, Liam Watts and blockbusting winger Mahe Fonua. “It was two reserve teams going at each other and running on empty,” said Hull FC coach Lee Radford. “It was an unbelievable effort from both sides.”
He says the quality of the game inevitably suffered from the previous weekend’s double-header, and later questioned whether the congested fixture list sat with the RFL’s stance on player welfare.
On Wigan’s injury-front, O’Loughlin, Oliver Gildart and Anthony Gelling could return to face Leigh on Thursday, with John Bateman and Sam Tomkins expected back later this month.
4. Is goal-kicking going to be an issue?
Though few would question Hull FC deserved the win, the sides finished with six tries each. Winger Liam Marshall - who did well for his two tries - only kicked one conversion. He missed with three other attempts, while George Williams was off-target with two (they weren’t easy efforts; four of the six tries were scored by wingers on the edges).
On Monday, in the 42-30 loss to Wakefield, it was six-tries-to-seven but the margin was considerable, as Wigan hit only three of their six conversions.
But this segment started with a question for a reason - it’s worth noting Wigan kicked as many goals as they scored tries in their previous two matches, against St Helens and Warrington.
To conclude from their last two matches they ‘desperately need a kicker’ would seem as ludicrous as suggesting ‘we’ve got a new Pat Richards’ after the previous two games, wouldn’t it?
Perhaps Marshall and Williams had off-days; they will both be putting in the practice this week.
Two of Wigan’s best kickers - Morgan Escare and Jake Shorrocks - are out for the year with injury. Sam Powell is a capable goal-kicker, Sam Tomkins, too, and young half Josh Woods and utility Nick Gregson are other options when they play.
5. The defeat was Wane’s first at the KCOM Stadium in eight visits.
It saw Hull FC join Castleford as sides do record domestic ‘doubles’ against Wigan this year, and it left the champions without a win in six Super League games. Most, it seem, are still looking up rather than over their shoulder, though they are now closer to the bottom-four than the top-four with six rounds to go before the season splits for the Super-8s, even before this round 17 has been completed today.
Their five recent losses have been against a resurgent St Helens and four sides above them – Salford, Castleford, Wakefield and now Hull FC. Perhaps encouragingly, their next four fixtures are against sides below them in the table - Leigh, Warrington in the Cup, Huddersfield and Widnes.
It’s going to be an interesting few weeks.