TWO trebles helped earn Wigan their first double of the season, as the genius of Sam Tomkins and the points-scoring proficiency of Pat Richards secured their eighth-straight win.
Super League’s Young Player of the Year and Man of Steel each finished with hat-tricks, the latter adding six goals for 24 points, to help propel Michael Maguire’s side to second in the ladder.
Wigan were only 16-6 ahead at half-time, but were always in control of the contest, thanks largely to a typically venomous defence, which choked the visitors of any chances.
At the other end, Wigan looked frustrated and flustered with the ball for large spells, but eventually found their groove to pile on enough points to leapfrop Huddersfield in the table.
The way they finished the game was particularly pleasing, as they displayed a ruthless streak and attacking fluidity only seen in flashes this year.
While Richards and Tomkins grabbed the points – in addition to a closing try from evergreen George Carmont – they were indebted to the surging runs of Sean O’Loughlin and Lee Mossop and the growing influence of Brett Finch.
Wigan’s 28-16 win at Hull KR in April sparked a seven-game winning streak and they needed to stretch that run yesterday to keep pace with Warrington and Huddersfield at the top of the table.
Despite not being beaten, Maguire was far from pleased with their performance in their last outing – a laboured 26-22 Cup triumph at Bradford – and demanded big improvements.
He was boosted by the return from injury of Carmont and Harrison Hansen, replacing Darrell Goulding and Liam Farrell respectively.
In his only other change, Thomas Leuluai started his first game at hooker this year in place of the benched Mike McIlorum, a move which allowed Paul Deacon to partner Australian Finch at half-back.
Wigan’s lethargic effort at Odsal a week ago may have been, in part, by the loss of Sam Tomkins in the first-half when he was knocked out.
The England sensation was cleared to play last night and he wasted no time in underlining his star quality with the game’s opening try.
Deacon and Finch spread the ball to the left, Tomkins eased past the onrushing Jake Webster, turned on the afterburners and powered beyond Shaun Briscoe to touch down.
Richards’ first conversion took him to the milestone of kicking 600 Super League goals in his Warriors career.
Ryan Hoffman spilled from the kick-off, but Wigan escaped that scare to extend their lead in the ninth minute.
Finch’s perfect cut-out pass to Carmont utilised the overlap, and he unselfishly sent Richards over in the corner. His goal made it 12-0. Maguire’s side, though, have plenty of previous when it comes to easing off after a blistering opening.
And they fell into the same routine last night, squandering position and possession wastefully to put themselves under pressure.
The visitors – who had won four of their last five following a sluggish start to the season – had their chances, but their telegraphed attacks never troubled Wigan.
Even when KR had four back-to-back sets on their opponents’ line midway through the first-half, they couldn’t penetrate a granite-like cherry and white wall.
Aware they needed to produce something different to get on the scoreboard, Blake Green’s kick dissecting the defence for Ben Cockayne to collect, and he passed inside for Kris Welham to dive over. Michael Dobson’s goal reduced the deficit to six points.
Wigan reasserted their authority before the break, when – after a strong charge on the right from Hansen and a fabulous pass from Joel Tomkins – Sam had the vision and accuracy to chip the ball over for Richards to touch down with seconds of the first-half remaining.
Video referee Ben Thaler awarded the try, despite KR’s protests he had ‘bounced’ the ball, but his conversion attempt drifted wide.
Two early errors in the second-half – another knock-on from Hoffman and a spill by Sam Tomkins, both unchallenged – typified the frustrating lull which Wigan found themselves in.
With neither side threatening to score and the game in danger of flat-lining, it took an angled 20-metre dash from Josh Charnley – and the wizardry of Sam Tomkins – to spark the Warriors into life on the hour-mark.
Attacking the left, he feigned the pass, stepped back inside and beat four players on a mazy run to the line. Richards’ goal made it 22-6 – and KR’s damn walls crumbled.
The full-back grabbed his hat-trick minutes later courtesy of good approach work on the right flank by Charnley.
Paul Prescott broke through but undid his sterling work with a mis-directed pass.
The Wigan fans, though, didn’t have to wait long for the next points as Carmont broke from deep, teased Robins No.1 Shaun Briscoe before sending Richards over under the sticks.
And they continued the onslaught with a well-crafted move involving both Tomkins brothers which gifted Carmont a well-earned try. Richards’ goal made it 40-6.