Wakefield Trinity 14 Wigan Warriors 6: Five things we learned
Five things we learned from Wigan's 14-6 loss at Wakefield last night...
1. Wigan aren't playing well. They're lacking in confidence, and they're making criminal errors at key points.
Those were the observations of coach Adrian Lam after a third straight loss. Say what you want of the coach and his methods, he's bang on with his assessment.
Having clawed their way back from 12-0 to 12-6, Harry Smith's attempted, and botched, short drop-out allowed Trinity to extend their six point lead to eight and seal the win... and they will look back at other errors and decisions at crucial times.
Lam called for everyone to stick together ahead of the daunting derbies with Warrington and St Helens over the next nine days... but they will need more than unity.
2. So where are Wigan's problems?
Well, they didn't make a handling error until the 20th minute, they defended with grit, they limited their opponents to two tries and they often got close to the Trinity line.
Their problems lie at the other end; the fact they have scored three tries in their last three matches illustrates where their major issue lies.
At least three times, players were held up - added to the four the previous week - and while Wakefield's defence was solid, the Warriors didn't pose enough problems.
3. In isolation, a close loss at Wakefield would not be a shock. Strong Wigan sides have struggled at the venue... this team was missing 10 frontline players.
Oliver Gildart, Bevan French, Jai Field and Dom Manfredi were injured, Zak Hardaker, Brad Singleton and Tony Clubb were suspended, and the England-All Stars game scrubbed Liam Farrell, John Bateman and Jackson Hastings out of the equation.
Of those 10, arguably nine would be guaranteed 'starters'.
Yet while that offered some mitigation for their clunkiness, Lam was careful not to use it as an excuse. For one thing, Wakefield had their absentees, too. And for another...
4. Some of the young players were Wigan's best players on the night. Amid the gloom, they were the shining lights.
Debutant Brad O'Neill, 18, was strong off the bench, 19-year-old Umyla Hanley scored Wigan's only try - from a break by 20-year-old Ethan Havard - while fellow 20-year-old Kai Pearce-Paul proved a handful with his size and controlled offloads.
James O'Donnell played injured and out of position - at centre - in just his second game. Throw in the whole-hearted displays of Joe Shorrocks, Morgan Smithies and Oli Partington, and those homegrown players should be proud of their efforts.
5. Winger Liam Marshall became the fourth player to start at full-back this season.
Lam explained he opted for his experience to shield teenager Hanley - who prefers full-back, but played on the left wing... Marshall's usual role.
As an aside, Wakefield were good value for the win, with halfback Mason Lino tricky, while both their tryscorers had ties to Wigan - Ryan Hampshire started his career at the club, Matty Ashurst is a former Orrell St James junior. Here's wishing luckless winger Tom Johnstone a speedy recovery from a knee injury he tried to hobble on with during the second-half.