Warrington 40 Wigan 10
Wigan collapsed under a heavy bombardment to suffer their second defeat to Warrington in a month.
Shaun Wane’s 150th game in charge didn’t go to script, with the home side outscoring the visitors seven-tries-to-two to move two points clear at the top of the Super League ladder.
Wigan fans may take some comfort from knowing they were still without seven of their ‘starting’ 13 - including five England internationals - due to injury.
But even that mitigation didn’t excuse some of the errors which littered their display. And what scraps of good possession they did get, they often wasted with an attack which sorely lacked energy and ideas.
Only John Bateman enhanced his reputation with another dogged display.
Opponents Warrington adjusted to the conditions much better and grew in confidence as the game unfolded and, by the end, the match had turned into a damage-limitation exercise for the Warriors.
Centre Ryan Atkins and forward Ben Westwood each scored two tries for Warrington, who beat Wigan 28-16 at the DW earlier this month.
Wigan started the opening half with real intent and aggression but faded, and Warrington took full advantage. They recovered from Josh Charnley’s opener to score three tries and take an 18-4 lead into the break.
In the opening exchanges, Wigan’s defence was actually on top. Forwards rushed into tackles, and winger Tom Lineham was forced off after a colossal hit by Tony Clubb. The Wolves had the first clear chance when Stefan Ratchford snatched the ball to go over, but a try was ruled out by the video official because Ryan Atkins was offside.
Three minutes later, Wigan broke the deadlock when a crisp passing move to the right finished with Charnley sliding over. Matty Smith was unable to convert.
So far, so encouraging, but in little more than quarter-of-an-hour Warrington racked up three tries to change the complexion of the match.
Taulima Tautai undid any good work with the ball by committing several sins off it, and he wasn’t alone. Of Wolves’ three tries, two would fall into the ‘soft’ bracket from Wigan’s perspective.
Former Man of Steel Daryl Clark brushed far too easily through a scattered line, and then in the 29th minute Ben Westrwood drove over from his first touch of the ball.
With Kurt Gidley on target with both conversions, it swelled the lead to 12-4.
Williams - fit after a back injury - was introduced from the bench but the England halfback covered at hooker, and was given few opportunities to make his mark in his fifth match of the season.
Wigan were grateful to John Bateman for two great interventions to prevent them going further behind. But the momentum was firmly with the home side, and after Matty Russell had blazed beyond Tautai, the final set finished with Kevin Penny beating Charnley to Gidley’s high ball.
The early second-half passages were nervous. Warrington seemed content to protect their lead, Wigan afraid to fall further behind.
But the home side were the first to take the initiative, and once they got on a roll, Wigan struggled to contain them. Atkins squeezed over but it was Wiganer Stefan Ratchford who created the opening with a step, run and pass.
Wane’s men did have the position to threaten but they were all at sea, offloading and passing with little cohesion or precision. It was no excuse, but how Wigan fans longed for an O’Loughlin or Tomkins to both steady the ship and add some polish.
Warrington adapted to the wet conditions better and Wigan looked like a side on damage-limitation mode; a team trying to plug the frequent leaks in their defence.
Atkins grabbed his second before the hour and Benjamin Jullien then grabbed his first Super League try, though he was aided and abetted by a feeble defence.
Gelling nearly cost his side another try with a wild offload near his own line was pounced on by Ratchford.
But Warrington still had the final say when Westwood powered over for a carbon-copy try to his first.