Hull FC 12 Wigan Warriors 56

Wigan's Gareth Hock bursts through to score a first-half try
Wigan's Gareth Hock bursts through to score a first-half try

PAT Richards marked his return from injury with a stunning hat-trick - before hobbling off with another leg problem - as Wigan roared to their fifth straight victory.

Shaun Wane’s side took advantage of Hull FC’s injury problems to inflict a third straight defeat on the home side.

And in the process, they tightened their grip on second spot with their biggest win in Super League this year.

For the most part, this was a fabulous display from Wigan.

Clinical and composed with the ball, ruthless in defence, they raced out of the traps and rarely relented.

Wane had said earlier in the week that he had targeted this match as one in which he wanted to “nail” a performance. He certainly got what he wanted, and while Huddersfield’s win at Bradford ensured the Giants remained on top of the Super League ladder, this was a result which showed they are well armed to challenge for honours this year.

In a well-balanced team effort, the half-back pairing of Thomas Leuluai and Brett Finch was outstanding, hooker Mike McIlorum produced another impeccable display and Harrison Hansen led a dominant forwards display.

This was the fifth time in Super League this year that Wigan had posted 40 or more points in a match.

A three-try salvo saw them rack up 16 points in nearly as many minutes.

Further touchdowns by Sam Tomkins and Josh Charnley made it 28-0 at the break, before they heaped further misery on the home side after the break.

As well as nabbing a hat-trick, Richards booted seven goals from eight attempts.

But the thumping win was soured by the sight of the Australian winger leaving the pitch with a knee injury.

Shaun Wane did make one surprise with his team selection, handing Gil Dudson a first start following some impressive displays off the bench.

Hull FC included assistant coach Lee Radford - who came out of retirement at Easter owing to an injury crisis - on the bench, while Peter Gentle handed a Super League bow to centre Ben Crooks - son of club legend Lee. With first-choice halfbacks Brett Seymour and Richard Horne out, Danny Nicklas and Jamie Ellis started.

Richards - who returned along with skipper Sean O’Loughlin following recent injury lay-offs - wasted no time to make his presence felt.

He combined with George Carmont to force a drop-out, and - from the next set - the ball swung wide for Richards to cross. He nailed the sideline conversion to make it 6-0.

Wigan kept their foot pressed

After easing down field on the back of a penalty, Leuluai’s shallow kick was collected by Gareth Hock, who twisted in the tackle to release the ball for Richards to race over for his second.

And minutes later they grabbed try No.3.

Carmont created the score, showing great footwork to unlock the Hull defence before being halted by Wade McKinnon.

The centre would have been better served passing to the unchecked Richards, but it didn’t matter, as from the next set Hock thundered through the line from close-range and plunged the ball down.

Richards’ goal swelled the scoreline to 16-0.

Epalahame Lauaki, signed from Hull FC in the off-season, was greeted with half-hearted pantomime boos when he came off the bench.

He and the rest of the pack dominated the middle exchanges, with Harrison Hansen in particular rattling the home side with a string of bone-jarring hits.

The home side did improve, but a stunning tackle by Tomkins stopped a runaway Danny Tickle, and the Warriors’ well-marshall defence - coupled with Hull’s shocking handling - ensured they didn’t trouble the scoreboard.

The home side’s best chance fell to Tom Briscoe, who was unable to collect Nicklas’ crossfield kick on the half-hour.

Having survived that scare, Wigan finished the opening half strongly, as Tomkins chased his own shallow kick, and pounced when the ball ricocheted off the post and settled in the ingoal.

And it got even better for the travelling army before the break when Charnley scooped up a loose ball and beat Briscoe - a rival for an England wing spot - to make it 28-0 at the break.

Richards secured his hat-trick minutes into the second-half, leaping to collect Finch’s measured kick, to extend their advantage to 34 points.

Stand-off Finch - rested last week - was pulling the strings like a master tactician, and he followed his own kick to grab his first of two tries.

A brief lapse saw Hull escape the indignity of being nilled.

First, half-back Ellis slipped through Hansen’s tackle and crossed from short-range. Danny Tickle’s goal made it 40-6.

And the home side doubled their tally before the hour-mark, McKinnon plucking Tomkins’ pass from the air and racing down field, before feeding Will Sharp.

But the Warriors soon resumed normal service, Charnley finishing off a cascading attack in the right corner to push the scoreline out to 46-12.

The delight of Leuluai darting over from short range was soon replaced by concern, as Richards - missing for the past month with a thigh problem - was helped off the pitch with a knee injury.

In his absence, Charnley kicked the conversion.

And on the stroke of full-time, Finch grabbed Wigan’s 10th try of the afternoon to finish off a satisfying afternoon.

Hull FC: McKinnon; Sharp, Martin, Crooks, Briscoe; Nicklas, Ellis; Moa, Houghton, Lynch, Manu, Tickle, Pitts. Subs: Whiting, Radford, Kent, Bowden.

Wigan: S Tomkins; Charnley, Goulding, Carmont, Richards; Finch, Leuluai; Prescott, McIlorum, Dudson, Hock, Hansen, O’Loughlin. Subs: Farrell, Tuson, Lauaki, Lima.

Referee: Steve Ganson

Half-time: 0-28

Attendance: 11,549

Starman: Brett Finch