Wigan 26 Huddersfield 19

Dan Sarginson celebrates his match-sealing try
Dan Sarginson celebrates his match-sealing try

DAN Sarginson settled a thrilling, nerve-shredding finish with a late try as Wigan moved clear at the top of the table.

A rip-roaring, seesawing ending saw Matty Smith kick two drop-goals to twice nudge Wigan in front, and earn a place in the history books.

His two late one-pointers moved him ahead of Andy Farrell at the top of the club’s all-time drop-goal chart, with 20.

But Huddersfield wouldn’t lie down and it was the sight of Sarginson sweeping over which finally settled the contest.

In all the euphoria and excitement, it was hard not to feel some sympathy for Huddersfield.

They more than played their part in the tense game, as Ryan Brierley finally announced himself on the Super League stage with a fine hat-trick.

The 24-year-old, who averaged more than a try a game at Leigh, hadn’t scored in five games since his early-season switch.

Huddersfield have spent most of the season on the bottom of the ladder, but their spirited display at the DW suggests they can not be written off.

As for Wigan, they were far from at their creative best but they will take comfort from scoring 20 points in the second half and holding their nerve when it mattered.

John Bateman, again outstanding, had made the point in the build-up that character improves defence much more than attack.

And with so many players still absent, it was understandable that they misfired at times and lacked creativity on the Giants’ line.

But for a second successive week they showed their composure when it mattered to come out on top.

Wigan headed into the game knowing victory would propel them two points clear at the top of the ladder, though Warrington and Catalans are yet to play.

As expected, Ben Flower and Gelling returned from lay-offs, but hopes Wigan’s injury woes were easing didn’t materialise – with two others ruled out.

Prop Dom Crosby, who made his first appearance of the year in a 26-12 win against Castleford, and forward Joel Tomkins were sidelined.

Tomkins was one of six England internationals missing, and his absence opened up a spot for academy-product Jack Wells to make his second appearance in the side.

The home side could hardly have asked for a better start. Gelling marked his return with a try following an exchange with Josh Charnley, who was reinstated to his old right wing role.

Shaun Wane had told his side to pressure Danny Brough – who had “kicked Warrington to death” in an 11-0 win six days earlier.

And his players obeyed his instructions, forcing two handling errors out of the Scotland international, who also kicked out on the full before the half was out.

But the Giants levelled in the 13th minute when Leroy Cudjoe broke past makeshift stand-off Nick Gregson and found Brierley on his inside, for the ex-Leigh player’s first try in Super League.

Lee Mossop and Bateman, especially, worked hard to impose themselves on the contest and Taulima Tautai continued that trend when he was introduced midway through the half.

But Wigan – like so often this season – struggled to capitalise on their chances on their opponents’ line.

Brierley’s intercept eased the pressure, and Wigan were grateful to winger Charnley after he denied Jake Connor a try in the corner.

Wigan didn’t help themselves at stages, most notably when Smith was caught in possession on the last and when Ryan Sutton spilled inside his own half.

And in the 34th minute, Huddersfield went ahead when Brough angled a shallow, drilled grubber back towards the posts, which Brierley read to perfection to make it 12-6 in their favour.

Huddersfield, who lost Connor before half-time, tried to edge further ahead but Brough’s drop-goal attempt ricocheted back off the crossbar and into Greg Burke’s arms.

Four minutes into the second-half, Wigan blew a golden chance to level when Willie Isa failed to take Smith’s short pass close to the line.

And when Brough kicked early in the set to earn a 40-20, it put the home side on the back foot – and it needed a great try saving tackle by Bateman to stop Oliver Roberts.

Wigan had a try-scoring chance of their own moments later but the video referee chalked off Gregson’s effort, ruling he hadn’t grounded the ball after cutting inside in search of his second score in successive weeks.

Mason was sinbinned for a high-shot on Flower, seconds after the Giants had received a team-warning from referee Joe Cobb.

And Wigan’s bombardment paid off as Bateman muscled his way over for his third try in a week before the hour-mark. Smith converted to lock the scores.

That didn’t last long, as England internationals Cudjoe and Jermaine McGillvary inflicted the damage which sent Brierley over for his third – even if there were question marks over whether the final pass was forward or not.

That score saw Wigan pick up the tempo and Smith charged over to again draw the scores level – and trigger a grandstand finale.

Huddersfield finished the game down to 12 men after Aaron Murphy was sin-binned for holding down.

Smith and Brough exchanged drop-goals, the former then nudged Wigan ahead before – after some nailbiting passages – Sarginson settled it.