Shaun Wane spoke of his pride - and frustration - as Wigan’s eight-game winning streak came to a dramatic end at Leeds.
A late fightback set up a thrilling finish before the Warriors went down 18-16, which denied them the chance of leapfrogging Hull FC into pole-position at the top of the Super League table.
Wane was missing nine frontline players including suspended Sean O’Loughlin and injured Sam Tomkins, but made no excuses for the narrow defeat - their first in more than two months. He praised the players’ desire but cursed their inability to finish off their chances.
He said: “Our effort was good, we had a dig, I just thought our game-management could have been better especially in the final third. It wasn’t good enough.
“We weren’t at the races in the first half, but it was great effort to get into the game. We showed a lot of desire.
“There’s no excuses, Leeds were the better team. You look at how they have played the last two weeks, you wouldn’t have thought they were resigned to the Middle-8s.”
Wane handed a debut to new recruit Frank-Paul Nuuausala, just days after his arrival in England. The Kiwi prop hasn’t played a game at any level since April, and Wane said: “Frank will improve massively, when he gets some game-time under his belt. He is going to be a player, no doubt at all.”
He praised Josh Charnley’s all-action contribution, and picked out George Williams as the best player on the pitch.
“He’s a talent, he’s strong, and he’s got a competitive streak which I like,” added Wane, who was presented with his Leeds heritage number 1,214 from his old coach Maurice Bamford before the game.
O’Loughlin, Tomkins and John Bateman are expected to return for next week’s derby against St Helens, and Wane has no fresh injury problems to worry about.
His biggest concern may be whether the RFL’s match-review panel cite Taulima Tautai for his first-half tackle around Adam Cuthbertson’s knees, which went unpunished by referee Robert Hicks.
“If those things aren’t punished in the right way, the silence encourages it,” said Leeds coach Brian McDermott.
“The only way is to highlight it, penalise it and get rid of it. Continiue with those and someone will end up with a leg snap.”
McDermott said his comments were not a criticism of Tautai or Wane, but “the game for accepting that tackle”.
Meanwhile, Dr Chris Brookes is set to join Wigan’s board of directors.