Five things we learned from Wigan’s 14-12 win against Hull FC...
1. It was ugly.
Shaun Wane admitted as much. The tense finale and some strong individual performances didn’t compensate for a flat spectacle and two scratchy performances.
The highlight of the first-half was watching Jake Connor, a motor-mouthed talent, managed to wind-up half the Warriors squad!
But Oliver Gildart’s try midway through the second-half ensured Wigan got the win they wanted, finishing the Super-8s with a cleansweep of victories.
Bring on next Friday’s home semi-final with Castleford.
2. Liam Farrell made his return from a shoulder injury which had threatened to end his year.
The forward, who had a stint off the bench, had not played since early July but is now in the frame for a spot in next Friday’s semi-final.
And with Joe Greenwood - expected to be fit after a head injury - and John Bateman in the mix, and No.13 Sean O’Loughlin back, Wane has a wealth of talent in his back-row, even accounting for Willie Isa’s absence to injury.
3. Craig Mullen made a home debut - and he did it in an alien position.
The academy-product, whose only previous senior game was at Wakefield in July, usually plays at full-back or wing but came off the bench to replace Sam Powell at hooker. Thomas Leuluai was one of three senior players rested.
And while Wane was pleased with Mullen’s performance, he admitted a disappointment that he was playing someone out of position rather than being able to call on a fringe hooker who deserved the chance.
“I should be putting a hooker in there and I’m not - I’m putting a winger in, and that’s not good enough for me,” said Wane, confirming fringe-hooker Josh Ganson was fit but left out. “But I was very happy with Craig.”
4. There was a rarity to Wigan’s match - a curtain-raiser at the DW Stadium.
And what a curtain-raiser it was, too, as their Under-19s edged a physical Grand Final with Leeds to triumph 14-6.
The contest was on the wire until centre Sam Halsall swept over for a try converted by Harry Smith. Morgan Smithies and Liam Byrne caught the eye, while Corey Johnson and Muizz Mustapha look like future Leeds first-teamers.
Impressively, this was the ninth time in the last 11 season that Wigan’s senior academy side have won their title.
5. Lee Radford is a class act... and the king of the funny quips.
Hull FC have spent too long in that vacuum of being safe from falling into the Qualifiers, but not close enough to crack the top-four. “It’s been an unbelievably challenging time when you know you’re playing for nothing - you’re a double glazing salesman selling poor windows to people who don’t need them,” said Radford.
He previously described having so many stars out injured as like “having a Ferrari at home but getting the bus to work.”
Radford paid tribute to Wane, revealing the departing Warriors chief was the first coach to contact him and offer him any help when he took the FC top-job. “I genuinely hope Wigan go on and win it,” added Radford.