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Huddersfield 20 Wigan 12

Wigan Warriors' Head Coach Shaun Wane
Wigan Warriors' Head Coach Shaun Wane

After the party, the hangover.

Impressive back-to-back victories had restored an air of positivity at Wigan, but this was a step back ahead of their mouthwatering derby against St Helens next week.

Sam Tomkins’ converted try in the sixth minute put them into an early lead but they never scored again until Tom Davies’ effort with four minutes to go.

Huddersfield, aggressive and well-marshalled, had done enough in between to secure two well-deserved tries which takes them further away from danger.

But this was a sloppy and disjointed display from the Warriors, lacking the composure they had against Warrington and the attacking finesse they exhibited in victory against Leeds.

Their indiscipline frequently cost them valuable possession and territory, and the extra defending appeared to take the energy out of their attacks.

The scoreline would have been more convincing had Danny Brough not missed all four of his conversions, though he did boot two penalties.

Those seeking positives could look to Romain Navarrete’s energy, a promising debut from Sammy Kibula - still 18 - and more involvement from Morgan Escare, though he, like many of his team-mates, made too many errors.

Wigan remain second but their gap will be closed to one point if Castleford beat Salford in their Friday night fixture.

This game - played on a Thursday to accommodate a Little Mix concert at the stadium - was the Warriors’ first since Liam Farrell suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

John Bateman was also left out with a minor injury, meaning Liam Paisley’s third senior game was at centre in an all home-grown backline.

Sean O’Loughlin (injury) and Navarrete (suspension) returned while Kibula - a towering forward - made his debut from the bench, becoming the 40th academy-product to get his chance under Wane.

Huddersfield’s two best forwards, Ukuma Ta’ai and Sebastine Ikahihifo, missed out but livewire full-back Jake Mamo returned for his first match since May. Since then, the Giants have improved out of sight, winning six of their previous seven Super League games before this - little wonder Wane had warned of their potency.

And they kept that good form going, recovering from Wigan’s early try to take a 12-6 lead into half-time.

The Warriors actually started well, attacking with pace and width, but from then on they were faded and were frequently penalised for ruck offences - forcing them into long spells of defending.

O’Loughlin and Tomkins spoke to referee Gareth Hewer about his decisions - though luck appeared well on their side in the sixth minute, when Tomkins grounded Liam Marshall’s improvised kick despite what appeared a blatant knock-on in the build-up.

Tomkins converted and moments later, was called on to stop a breakaway Jermaine McGillvary - though he was penalised for the high shot which forced the England winger off for a head test, which he passed.

Wigan remained on the ropes, and there was almost a sense of inevitability when Huddersfield breached their line, Darnell McIntosh beating Davies to a floated, angled kick.

Kibula was introduced from the bench and showed early on what a handful he can be; with his first carry, it took three men to bring him to ground!

Wigan, though, simply didn’t have enough of the ball. Alex Mellor raced over from an offload and Brough struck another penalty to open up a six point gap.

The half-time break didn’t break the pattern.

When Escare knocked-on a regulation kick, it presented the position for McIntosh to sweep past Davies for his second try and make it 16-6.

Penalties continued to blight their display but Wigan did improve, making good metres down the middle - the trouble was, when they went to pull the trigger, moves either broke down or were too easily repelled.

Approaching the hour-mark, Huddersfield were briefly reduced to 12-men when Michael Lawrence was sin-binned for a professional foul.

Wigan couldn’t make their numerical advantage count, though Tomkins continued to rally the players and Davies pulled one back with four minutes to go. Tomkins hit the conversion, but with eight points between the sides, it was too much even for a side known for some great escapes this year.