WIGAN’S hopes of claiming an historic World Club Challenge triumph were crushed by a phenomenal Sydney Roosters display.
The Warriors produced a stirring second-half display to battle back from 18-0 down, with three tries in 15 minutes early in the second-half.
But they couldn’t maintain their momentum as the Roosters showed just why many are tipping them to defend their NRL title.
Wigan were bidding to claim their fourth World Club Challenge title - and the first on Australian soil since the club’s famous victory against Brisbane two decades earlier.
But from the moment Michael Jennings crossed in the third minute, it seemed it was not going to be their day. Jennings went on to become the first person to score a hat-trick in the history of the competition.
There were some positives for Wigan. Their display, while marred by poor kicking and a clunky attack, was gutsy and it took some brave defensive efforts to prevent the Aussie outfit from scoring more.
Captain Sean O’Loughlin led with a whole-hearted display, Eddy Pettybourne produced a string of bone-jarring hits, and at the start of the second-half Wigan showed their attacking capabilities by carving out three tries, two for Josh Charnley and another for Joe Burgess.
But the Roosters regained their composure, harassing their opponents into making mistakes and scoring two further tries through Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Shaun Kenny-Dowall to claim their first WCC since 2003.
A whirlwind start by the NRL champions left the Warriors on the ropes at 18-0. As well as Jennings’ double, former Hull FC prop Sam Moa also punched over.
Wigan had few try-scoring chances, though they did finish the first half with an improved defensive display, preventing the Roosters from extending their advantage.
Earlier, the nearby park and pubs were coloured with Cherry and White and soundtracked by chants and songs from the travelling fans, before they made their way to the historic Sydney Football Stadium for the first WCC showdown on Australian soil in 20 years.
Around 2,000 Wigan fans were in the 31,515 crowd - nearly 12,000 more than the Roosters’ club record average home attendance last season.
During that campaign, Trent Robinson’s outfit lost just six of 27 matches on their way to the NRL Premiership.
And they wanted to lay down a marker that they could become the first club since Brisbane more than two decades ago to win back-to-back titles.
For Wigan, they will feel disappointed with the way they aided and abetted their opponents with handling errors and inconsistencies early in the match.
But aside from the opening quarter, Wane’s men had a real dig, and the manner of their display for the rest of the match gave the fans something to be proud of.
Wigan: Bowen; Charnley, Goulding, Sarginson, Burgess; Green, Smith; Flower, McIlorum, Dudson, Hughes, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Subs: Flower, Pettybourne, Crosby, Bateman.
Roosters: Minichiello; Tupou, Jennings, Aubusson, Kenny-Dowall; Maloney, Pearce; Waerea-Hargreaves, Friend, Moa, Cordner, Williams, Nuuausala. Subs: Mortimer, Guerra, Napa, Casty.