Hull FC 22 Wigan 30: Five things we learned
1. If you missed it, don’t let the eight-point margin fool you.
Wigan trailed 22-20 heading into the final three minutes - and appeared to be heading to a loss which would have probably ended their top-four hopes.
But the weight of pressure eventually caved FC’s line, and late tries by Anthony Gelling and John Bateman secured a tense win – their first in four meetings with Hull this year – and moved them up to third.
Whisper it quietly... but bookies Skybet now have Wigan as second favourite to win the Grand Final. Not a bad rise for a side widely written off just a few weeks ago.
2. Liam Watts’ red-card midway through the first-half was the major flashpoint.
His elbow struck Micky McIlorum’s head as the Wigan hooker attempted to make a tackle, and the tough No.9 played no further part.
The sending-off polarised opinion on social media, with this correspondent believing it was harsh. Until then, each side had exchanged blows and the game had the right amount of needle.
And mentioning calls which fell in Wigan’s favour - Tom Davies scored from a Gelling pass which appeared forward, but wasn’t picked up by the officials.
3. The exciting finish went someway to papering over the cracks of the performance - but Shaun Wane’s mood afterwards was disappointment, rather than delight.
It was a step back on their performance at St Helens the week before.
There was a defensive softness for at least two of Hull’s four tries, and their last-plays were far too often poor. Interestingly, Wigan’s kicking has been criticised this season but Lee Radford said their short-kicks are the best in the league – and the stabbed kicks into the ingoal at the end of the game forced two drop-outs, from which they eventually broke Hull’s admirable resolve.
4. It’s hard not to like Lee Radford.
The coach who freely admitted Tony Clubb should have been awarded a Wembleu try - and later quipped they would prepare for a Thursday match by stopping drinking on Wednesday! - had a couple more gems after the match.
He disagreed with all three of Watts’ red-cards this year and said: “He’s got the right amount of wrong in him.” And on the scrappy spells in Friday’s game, he said: “It looked like watching a dog die.”
If only all Super League coaches were as colourful and candid.
5. So, what next?
There are two rounds to go before the play-off semis. Wigan and Hull are locked on 31 points, in third and fourth respectively, ahead of Wakefield (5th, 30 points) and St Helens (6th, 29).
Wigan host table-toppers Castleford on Sunday and travel to Wakefield the following weekend.
Trinity visit Hull FC on Thursday, with Radford’s side completing their campaign against Cas’.
Saints can’t be ruled out yet - they have the best for-and-against of those four sides, and arguably an easier run-in (against Huddersfield and Salford).
The first year of the Super-8s was exciting because of the race for top spot, the second because of Leigh’s rise and the Million Pound Game; this season, it’s the battle for top-four places which is generating plenty of excitement.