Wigan Warriors 44 Wakefield 24

Liam Farrell and Jack Hughes get stuck in to the Wildcats
Liam Farrell and Jack Hughes get stuck in to the Wildcats
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JOB done. Shaun Wane had set his sights on winning all four matches during the two weeks book-ending Easter.

And while yesterday’s performance was far from vintage Wigan, they still did enough to score nine tries, claim thew win and remain a point clear at the top of the Super League ladder.

Sam Tomkins crowned a stunning display with a hat-trick of tries, providing many of the highlights of a high-scoring, low-intense but generally entertaining contest.

“I don’t think we were great defensively, and I don’t think we had a lot of energy in the game,” said assistant coach Iestyn Harris.

“We came into the Easter period with a mini-target. There are four games and we wanted to make sure we came out of this period with a 100 per cent record.

“We’re very happy with that - but there are some areas we need to work on.”

Winger Anthony Gelling marked his return to action with a well-taken double, and Greg Burke caught the eye with another tremendous display, shouldering more of the defensive duties when Chris Tuson hobbled off early with a hamstring injury.

But Wakefield looked dangerous with the ball and should be commended for not throwing in the towel.

Indeed, no other team this year has managed to score 24 points against Wigan this year, and the fact they did so with 12-men – following Justin Poore’s early sending off – is to their credit.

“We weren’t comfortable at all,” continued Harris. “We spoke all week about how Wakefield are a very good side with some good players and they made the game very difficult for us to play.

“At no point during this game did we think it was done and dusted. When they went down to 12 men they upped their intensity and we dropped ours.”

A delayed flight prevented Pat Richards from taking part, after his epic, 24,000-mile return trip home to Australia for his brother’s wedding during the week.

With Sean O’Loughlin still missing with a rib injury, Josh Charnley ruled out following last week’s ankle cut and the return of Harrison Hansen and Lee Mossop held back a week, Wane fielded his most inexperienced line-up yet.

At 26, Blake Green was the oldest player in a team with an average age of less than 23, with Tomkins again the stand-in captain.

And Tomkins had a huge influence, as Wigan registered six tries before the break to take control – even if they did suffer an early scare shortly after Wakefield were reduced to 12-men.

Trailing 10-0, Poore led with his forearm into a tackle by Liam Farrell, who was understandably frustrated.

But what started as a pushing and grappling contest from the play-the-ball soon turned ugly, as Poore lashed out with a punch, catching the forward in the face and – after team-mates had separated the warring pair – referee Robert Hicks issued the Aussie front-rower with his marching orders.

“I’ve no arguments whatsoever with the red card. It’s not the 1980s, you can’t do that anymore,” said Richard Agar, even if he couldn’t help wonder what might have been with a full team.

Many expected Wigan to cut loose immediately, particularly as they had registered two tries in the opening five minutes.

First Iain Thornley finished off a trademark crisp passing move in the corner, and then Tomkins created an opening for Gelling in the corner.

But to Wakefield’s credit, they roared back, Vince Mellars powering through a scattered defence for a try and then, in the next set, hooker Paul Aiton burst through a small gap from dummy-half to create a try for Richie Mathers.

With Paul Skyes tagging on both goals, Wakefield held a surprising 12-10 lead, and the home fans were shocked into a hushed silence.Normal service was soon resumed, however.

Wigan dusted themselves down, regrouped, and edged back in front. Tomkins was again the link man, drawing in defenders to send an unchecked Thornley over in the corner for his second try of the afternoon.

Wakefield’s early burst of enthusiasm following Poore’s red card quickly faded, and they leaked three further tries before the break.

Tomkins, constantly a menace, turned on the afterburners to scorch through the middle, Matty Smith’s conversion taking the scoreline to 20-12.

Then, from inside their own half, Burke was released into space, the youngster showing good composure to feed the supporting Darrell Goulding for his first try of the season. Gelling’s spill from the kick-off handed Wakefield a brief cameo on their opponents’ line.

But that threat was quickly defused, and Wigan finished strongly, Green jinking through the defence and unleashing Farrell for his seventh try of the season.Three minutes into the second-half, another expansive move ended with Gelling crossing for his second try of the afternoon, the Kiwi again showing his strength and poise to stay in the field of play.

Then Tomkins showed majestic footwork to unlock the Wildcats defence to grab his second touchdown – Sam Powell took over the goal-kicking duties but swung an easy attempt wide.

Lee Smith’s messy effort kept Wakefield within touching distance at 38-18, and to their credit they refused to throw in the towel. Paul Aiton punished a napping defence to cut the margin to just 14 points with as many minutes remaining. But Tomkins was a class apart, whether conjuring up attacks or making 30m on a tap-restart, and his stunning 80m break earned him a deserved hat-trick.