Wigan 30 Hull KR 16
This was always about the win. Always about the two points.
Playing just three days after a gruelling derby, it was greedy to ask for anything else. The bookmakers expected a landslide - the Warriors were 100/1 ON in some markets - but they didn’t account for Hull KR’s admirable spirit.
The visitors held a 16-14 lead heading into the final 15 minutes and, on a day of close scorelines and surprises, many wondered whether Wigan were heading for a shock defeat.
But they roared into life with two tries in three minutes by Dom Manfredi and Oliver Gildart put them 24-16 ahead - to a collective sigh of relief from the stands.
And then Josh Charnley completed his hat-trick with a long-range effort, adding to the double earlier in the half, to make the final scoreline look much more comfortable.
The win moved Wigan level with Warrington at the top of the Super League table, setting the stage for a tasty encounter this Friday night.
It was a frustrating game kept entertaining and interesting because of the seesawing scoreline. But after the Good Friday derbies, it would be harsh to criticise the players for not being at their best.
As expected, teenage hooker Luke Waterworth was handed his debut in a pack which also featured young forward Nick Gregson.
Lewis Tierney was given another chance in the full-back role, with Dan Sarginson dropping to the bench and Greg Burke and injured Ben Flower making way.
The question before kick-off was: How many did Wigan need to win by to go top? Winning was a given - especially as Hull KR were ravaged by injuries.
But the onslaught didn’t come.
Wigan made a bright start and had their early chances. Oliver Gildart was ushered into touch in the 14th minute and, moments later, Joel Tomkins spilled in good position. At the other end, Joe Wardill was shoved into touch by Charnley as he juggled the ball.
Ryan Shaw and John Bateman both left the action with injuries - the latter returned after passing a concussion test - as errors continued to litter the contest.
It was all rather messy, but Wigan broke the deadlock in the 25th minute with a silky, well-engineered try.
Matty Smith passed to Tomkins, who swiftly turned the ball inside for Tierney to chime through, rounding Kieran Dixon on his way to the line.
Charnley was handed the kicking duties for the first time this year. His attempt, from a few metres in from touch, drifted wide.
But Wigan’s sloppy passages in attack, and their discipline, allowed the Robins to take a foothold in the game.
First, Graeme Horne was put through an opening to draw level and Dixon tagged on the extras to give the Robins a 6-4 lead.
Then, three minutes later, Tierney failed to defuse a high kick and ex-Warrior Iain Thornley profited to make it 10-4 at the break.
Wane, presumably, demanded an instant response and he got it, though not in the fashion he may have planned. Hull KR once again threatened the home line but Charnley scooped up a loose ball to race 90m to score.
And moments later he squeezed in at the corner to move up into 19th in the club’s all-time try-scoring charts with 146, ahead of Henderson Gill.
But if that suggested everything would go Wigan’s way, the Robins had other ideas. And after easing down field, Thornley crossed again when he charged onto a bullet-pass and pierced the home defence. Dixon’s conversion nudged them 16-14 ahead.
As the game entered the final quarter, Tony Clubb and Taulima Tautai injected some energy into the middle to earn their side good position, but still the KR line held firm.
And just as fans considered the possibility of Wigan losing, they fired into life to score two tries in three whirlwind minutes to take the lead.
First, Manfredi - hero of the Good Friday derby - went over as tempers boiled over in back-play. And from the restarting set, Oliver Gildart arced around the defence to make it 24-16. The game was held up for a few moments as Bateman received treatment, and was substituted.
But Wigan finished with a flurry as Charnley completed his hat-trick from long range, and slotted the conversion with a beaming smile on his face.