FROM the minute the Huddersfield players arrived at the DW Stadium in a fleet of taxis, it was obvious it was going to be an interesting night.
Nearly 20,000 fans packed in to watch a clash between second and third, only for Wigan to leapfrog the visitors in spectacular fashion.
Brett Finch continued to prove he is a new-found hero, old hero Gareth Hock made his return after two years out, while the sight and sound of Sam Tomkins being comically booed by his own legion of supporters continued the trend of the unexpected.
Wigan have played this well before this year. But rarely have they doubled up two fine performances, and after a commanding display against St Helens a week earlier, it was richly satisfying to see them maintain – and raise – their own marker.
It’s too soon to say whether they have found that ever-eluding ‘c’ word they crave so much – consistency – but it bodes well as they prepare to enter a frantic three-game schedule in eight days, starting from Friday’s visit of fallen giants Leeds.
Sam Tomkins’ magical hat-trick provided much of the dazzle of Saturday evening’s eight-try performance, but look closer and there were impeccable displays elsewhere, all contributing to a team effort that ran like a well-oiled, precision-tuned F1 car.
The telepathic left-side combination of George Carmont and Pat Richards tormented the Giants at times, Finch was masterful at stand-off, and up front the unheralded Lee Mossop, Paul Prescott and Jeff Lima were superb.
There was also a telling contribution from captain Sean O’Loughlin – later described by Giants coach Nathan Brown as “comfortably the best British player in the sport” - while anyone wanting to see some of the old Hock spark did not go home disappointed.
He came off the bench for two stints, the first in the 24th minute to a rapturous reception, and was solid at right-side second row. He also provided the offload which led to Sam Tomkins’ match-crowning hat-trick try, following some handy footballing skills from the slippery No.1.
Hock’s inclusion, for the banned Chris Tuson, was the only change to the squad that beat St Helens a week earlier.
Huddersfield had won their previous three visits to the DW, but never looked like making it four. Their preparations were disrupted when their coach broke down on the motorway, forcing them to complete the journey by cabs, and from the minute their defence was unlocked by a slick passing move involving Finch, Sam, Carmont and Richards – before the winger sent the full-back over with an inside pass – it always looked like being Wigan’s day. Richards kicked the conversion – his first of seven from eight attempts.
Giants levelled before the 10th minute when Kevin Brown’s cut-out pass allowed David Hodgson to sweep over in the corner for his eighth try in six matches, but Wigan refused to be rocked, and countered magnificently when Finch unleashed Sam and he burst through McGilvary’s desperate tackle to score. His try was met by comical boos – and then cheers – from the home fans, much to Sam’s obvious delight.
Thomas Leuluai, again at hooker, kept the scoreboard ticking over with a short-range try while, at the other end, stern defending repelled anything Huddersfield coach muster. And they powered 22-6 ahead with a mesmerising move. Deacon’s pass was flicked on by Finch into the path of Sam, who raced through the defence to send evergreen George Carmont clear.
Penalties and spilled balls saw the contest fade as a spectacle before the break, but Wigan managed to extend their advantage to 28-6 when a crisp passing move sparked by Finch saw Richards cross.
It took until the 53rd minute for Wigan to be awarded only their second penalty, but they made it count, as the midfield charges of Prescott and Hansen softened up the Giants line, and the under-used Josh Charnley profited from Deacon’s shallow angled kick.
Strong-running Harrison Hansen had running repairs on a dislocated finger in the 62nd minute, just before Mossop stormed over for his second in two weeks from Hoffman’s pass.
The 40-6 scoreline didn’t flatter Wigan, and though their opponents narrowed the margin with a Danny Kirmond try following a rare error from Sam, the full-back had the final say, twice hacking on a loose ball from Hock’s offload to grab his third try.
Wigan: S Tomkins; Charnley, J Tomins, Carmont, Richards; Deacon, Finch; Lima, Leuluai, Mossop, Hansen, Hoffman, O’Loughlin. Subs: Prescott, Hock, McIlorum, Coley.
Huddersfield: Grix; McGilvary, Wardle, Cudjoe, Hodgson; Brown, Robinson; Crabtree, Faiumu, Mason, Gilmour, Ferguson, Faalogo. Subs: Lunt, Griffin, Kirmond, Patrick.
Referee: Phil Bentham.
Starman: Sam Tomkins