SHAUN Wane says Warriors will be using the last-minute heartbreak as motivation for their Super League semi-final against Huddersfield.
Despite beating Castleford 47-12 thanks to a 37-point second-half romp, Warriors lost out on the League Leaders’ Shield after a dramatic match-winning try from Leeds’ Ryan Hall across the Pennines.
Both finished the regular campaign on 41 points, but the Rhinos had a better for-and-against.
Wane had made finishing the regular campaign in the No.1 spot one of their goals this year.
And after watching a ruthless display in an electric atmosphere - including a first four-try haul from winger Dom Manfredi - Wane described the feeling as ‘not far off’ a defeat.
“It is what it is,” said the coach. “I have to congratulate Leeds. They’ve stayed in there and battled until the end.
“I’m a massive believer in you get what you deserve - and we’ve not deserved to win it.
“We’ve done what we can, we’ve come close but they fact is we’ve not got it. They are the league leaders and we have to take in on the chin and use it as motivation going into next Thursday’s game.”
When asked whether Wigan could have done any more on a dramatic, incredible night, Wane candidly replied with: “We could have won at Hull KR (a 22-20 defeat in March) and that would have solved it.”
Despite the sinking post match disappointment, Wane said he was proud of his players’ efforts with second half tries from Matty Bowen, Oliver Gildart, George Williams and Larne Patrick complimenting Manfredi’s contribution to overturn a 12-10 half-time deficit.
“At half-time I said to the lads they were going away for a semi-final,” the coach revealed.
“Castleford were never going to come here and lie down.
“They’re a good team and their mentality would have been to come and spoil the party but in the second half we were dominant.”
As fans divided their time between the action in front of them and wrestling with an overcrowded phone network for updates from the John Smith’s Stadium, Wane was adamant he was none the wiser about developments between Huddersfield and Leeds until the dying moments.
“I didn’t get any (updates),” he said.
“I didn’t want any until the end when I got on the bench and somebody said there’s 30 seconds left and it’s a draw then Steve Blakely (Wigan’s physio) came on and said: “Leeds have just scored,” and I thought it was a sick joke.”
Wigan’s reward for finishing second is a home semi-final against Huddersfield on Thursday night. Leeds face St Helens the following night, with the two victors meeting in the Grand Final on October 10.
Castleford coach Daryl Powell conceded he was ‘embarrassed’ by his side’s second half display - and thinks any of the sides competing in next week’s play-offs have a chance of claiming the title at Old Trafford in a fortnight’s time.
“They’ll have a chance playing at home,” he said when asked about Wigan’s semi-final prospects.
“They are good enough to beat anybody.
“I think (the play-offs are) a flip of a coin really. I think you look at Saints’ form and they’d be the outsiders but Wigan, Leeds and Huddersfield are a tough side to beat. They hang about and give you very little. Leeds, if they can get some confidence from today they’ll fancy their chances. There’s nothing in it - it’s the flip of a coin.”