Wigan Warriors- The 18th man: 'Jai Field stole the show again, he's like a modern day Jonathan Davies'
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The Hull game was another close one where we won ugly, like against Toulouse, but that's the sign of a champion team, that they win even when they don't play that well.
I put it down to missing Thomas Leuluai. When he doesn't play we really do look lost in the way we used to when Lockers didn't play.
That was Liam Byrne’s best game I thought, and really put himself about in the opening 20 minutes, while Ethan Havard off the bench played well too.
Jai Field stole the show again, he's like a modern day Jonathan Davies in the way he plays and his cover tackles are a throwback to the old school fullback too which is good to see, like a lion weighing up a gazelle and pouncing.
Looking to the Wakefield game, I want the win first as it's a cup match.
Ideally having a full strength team against them, coming out of it injury and suspension free, and playing well, building momentum for the Saints game is a must.
We seem to have lost that initial spark we showed in the first few games which was slowly coming back.
I want us playing well, doing more offloads, against Hull we seemed to have gone more cautious. I'd be looking at some of the outside backs stepping up so that we don't rely too heavily on Field for tries as teams start to do what they can to subdue his attack.
I was quite happy with the performance against Hull last Thursday and very happy with the result.
We are still very much work in progress however, it is pretty obvious to me that this year improvements are being made on and off the pitch.
I’m quite sure that there would have been no way that we would have beaten Hull with last year’s coaching set up.
Hull are far from being a top class side but they are a good team with a decent pack and some great individual players such as Connor.
If they play to the best of their ability they are a difficult team to beat and recent results suggested that they were improving after an injury plagued start to the season.
For me, Hull played quite well on the night and I was very pleased that we had the will and know how to turn around a half time deficit whilst having two enforced substitutions that meant we were effectively playing with a squad of 15 for 40 minutes.
I thought we missed Tommy Leuluai, albeit that his replacement Harry Smith dropped the winning field goal.
As a squad, to be challenging Saints for the silverware for me we still need at least one more top class centre, a loose forward and ideally another prop, other than Havard, who can play long minutes with high intensity.
Havard, Partington and Farrell I thought were particularly impressive on the night, with the pack collectively probably having their best performance of the season.
I think we are still too slow at PTB and can still at times be slow in moving up in defence but I am seeing incremental improvements across the park.
As a fan I am happy with that, but hopeful we can improve even more as the season progresses.
With French still to achieve anything like full fitness, Ellis to comeback from suspension and if we can avoid any more long term injuries, I’d like to think we will actually see further improvements on the field, particularly as we approach the summer.
At the moment Field is imperious. His performances and impact is approaching the standards of Sam Tomkins in 2012 and I can’t rate the lad much higher than that.
The worry is with Kai Pearce-Paul injured we overly rely on Field, with a lack of firepower elsewhere, that for me is due to poor cap and squad management in the last few years, which has led an unbalanced squad and a reliance on players playing out of position and/or average players in key position eg centres, wing and loose forward.
Some of the above probably sounds downbeat but I think it’s pretty reflective of where we are. I’d give a 7.5 out of 10 for the Hull performance, which is three times higher than I would have marked for the vast majority of the 2021 season.
I’m really looking forward to going to Wakefield on Sunday for a very competitive and difficult Challenge Cup tie.
Unfortunately the Challenge Cup has lost a bit of its allure in recent years but this weekend has got some cracking ties and Wakefield v Wigan I think, will be the tie of the round.
I’m hoping that this will lead to some decent crowds at the weekend and the subsequent semi final double header.
Wakefield have hit a bit of form and have some top class individual players in Johnstone, Fafita and Lino.
After a very professional performance against Hull and with an improved defence in the last couple of weeks we will also be approaching the game on an upward curve.
I’m hoping with Tommy back, Thornley/Halsall added to the squad and no more injuries, that we will prevail and win the game by no more than six points.
Both teams like to play an expansive game so providing playing conditions are good I expect both teams to score at least three tries, meaning goal kicking could play an important role in the result.
Although Johnstone and Lino are their star players I’m more worried about Fafita. He quite literally beat us on his own a few years back so if we can keep him in check, which will be very difficult, I’m quietly confident we can get the win.
We will need our best performance of the season to win but I’m quite hopeful that all the lads will raise their game and I’ve got a sneaking feeling we may see a top class performance from Farrell to help us deliver the goods against a well organised and skilful Wakefield team.
The older I get the more I ponder just how on earth these lads put on a show in such cold conditions.
Remembering back to my youth, I suppose I didn’t feel the cold as much either, but sitting in the stands last week it was quite clear it was going to be a tough one.
Hull FC are a real proposition this year and are being coached very well in their structure and set plays.
Add to that the return of Luke Gale, it was a dangerous one for us for sure.
Everything that Hull threw at us seemed to flow from Gale and although much of the hype is centred around Jake Connor, Gale caused no end of problems.
That said, we were keen and strong in defence, an attribute for which Peet is getting a reputation for. Without such commitment we would not have stayed in this game and ultimately come up with the victory.
Stand out performances from Sam Powell and Jai Field gave us great momentum and our forwards stood up amazingly well to the big Yorkshire forward pack.
I noticed the frustration of Oliver Partington when he strayed too high to draw a penalty from the referee.
Ollie has obviously had the point made to him that in recent times, his high impact has been outweighed by his high penalty count.
Apologising to his team mates immediately, it is a part of his game which he is trying so hard to fix.
The referee I thought had a really good game too. They cop so much flak but beyond a couple of debatable decisions either way, Mr. Hicks kept the game flowing and kept a really good communication with both teams.
A bit of an unsung hero recently in my eyes has been Cade Cust. Playing with his eyes up and challenging what is in front of him, he keeps opposition defences honest and more often than not finds the right pass.
We are improving every week this year and sitting where we are in the table, that’s not a bad thing to ponder is it?
This week we are back to trapdoor Rugby League with Wakey as our next scalp.
The Tom Johnstone effect will need to be dealt with and our centres will have their hands full helping to keep their back line quiet.
The way we have scrambled our defence recently combined with keeping our hips and shoulders square to the oncoming attack means we can cope with much that teams throw at us, but we do sometimes get caught out with numbers on the edge.
I feel confident that our improving forwards have the metal to cope with what is thrown at them and am hoping for a dry track for us to play an open game. It’s what we are good at and should see us through to the next round.
The Hull match is quite a hard one to review. We started really well, throwing the ball about for the first quarter and taking the lead.
Then it seemed like we just reverted to one man rugby again. Hull played well in spells, but a couple of their tries were disappointing to concede from a defensive perspective.
Not for the first time this year, and I mean no disrespect to the rest of the team, but it felt like a game where, if Jai Field wasn’t playing we would have lost.
His ability to create something from nothing this season has been incredible, but we need to not be too dependent on him.
He is becoming an increasingly marked man and we need to make sure we make the most of the space this will leave for everyone else. The prospect of him linking up with Bevan French, who will improve rapidly with more game time, is mouth watering.
Ultimately our defence, fitness and work rate won us the game as we finished far stronger than Hull.
Harry Smith deserves credit for his scruffy, but decisive, drop goal. It can’t be easy playing as little as he does and being expected to come straight into the team in top form, but he played well in Tommy’s absence and will have given Matt Peet something to think about ahead of the game on Sunday.
Wakefield look like being a very tough prospect in the cup. They have found some excellent form in recent weeks, although while on paper beating Warrington twice looks very impressive, the reality is that the Wire are performing dreadfully at the moment, so it may not be the most reliable marker.
Like Wigan with Jai Field, Wakefield have been reliant on Mason Lino and, as usual, Tom Johnstone, with both in excellent form.
Johnstone is an injury doubt ahead of the cup game, and I should hope he misses the game but he has had so much bad luck with injuries and is such an exciting player to watch I am crossing my fingers he does play.
I expect Tommy Leuluai will be brought back into the team for his experience and his defensive qualities, he has been on top form so far this year.
While we inevitably have to put in a certain amount of forward graft, I am hoping the ball will be allowed to move throughout the whole game, rather than just in spells.
We look dangerous when we throw the ball wide so it is frustrating when we focus on a forward battle, especially against teams like Hull, which suited them down to the ground.
As long as we work for one another in defence as we have shown we can in patches, we should have enough attacking flair to outscore Wakefield in what I think will be a high scoring exciting game. Ever the optimist I will go for us to reach the semi finals with a 28-20 win.