Five things we learned from Wigan’s 32-16 defeat at Wakefield...
1. Have the wheels come off Wigan?
No... but they could sure do with some air in the tyres.
Their smaller forwards were dominated, Wigan’s discipline was poor – choking them of their fair share of possession – and when they did get into good position, far too often they either lacked ideas or mixed-up plays.
Of course, many teams struggle at Wakefield - Wigan were nilled there in two of their three most recent games - and in isolation, this could be easily stomached. But the trouble was...
2. This was Wigan’s third defeat in a row - and, either by coincidence or not, all since Shaun Wane announced he would be stepping down at the end of the season.
They have also had the distraction of the Tomkins video nasty saga this week, and Wane called on any players who may be feeling sorry for themselves to take motivation from the fact so many others on the outside are enjoying seeing them struggle.
It is worth a step back and a look at the bigger picture, because until this rocky spell, they had lost just two of their previous 15 - and both by one-score, to the sides closest to them in the ladder.
Wane was more comfortable with this defeat that the previous two losses, at Hull KR and Warrington, because they were down on troops and he saw players having a dig.
But with some big games on the horizon – Hull FC, Castleford, Leeds and St Helens are four of their next five opponents – they need to quickly rediscover the form which has seen them climb to second spot in the table.
3. Until Gabe Hamlin touched down before half-time – his first try for Wigan – the Warriors had gone three hours of play without scoring.
Late efforts by the impressive Tom Davies and Morgan Escare raised faint hopes, all the tries coming in the rare spells when they managed to break Trinity’s grip on the contest.
Hamlin, Romain Navarrete and Callum Field all took their chances in the absence of a clutch of front-line middles, and all earning praise from Wane.
Elsewhere, Sean O’Loughlin motored through most of the game, John Bateman was again impressive, and...
4. Craig Mullen announced himself on the big stage.
The utility-back only got the call-up earlier in the day when Liam Marshall fell sick, and didn’t look out of place. He dealt with a couple of awkward balls and generally made some confident carries – though chances were few and far between.
Mullen, 20, is primarily a full-back but his ability to play wing, centre and even halfback will work in his favour as he attempts to muscle his way into the side for the rest of the season.
5. Give Wakefield credit.
Lots and lots of credit.
They were low on errors, high on enthusiasm. Chris Chester’s forwards pack a punch - especially David Fifita - halfbacks Ryan Hampshire and Jacob Miller work in-sync with their three-quarters.
It wasn’t too long ago they were riding through a ‘crisis’ of their own. Now, they have leapt above Leeds and have claimed the scalps of Super League’s top-two at home as they attempt to chase a top-four spot.