Wigan Warriors 30 Hull FC 24

Shaun Wane
Shaun Wane

JOE Burgess eased Wigan’s fraught nerves with a last-minute try to help keep the pressure on pace-setters Leeds.

But the home side had to survive an unexpected scare before registering their seventh win from eight games.

Injury-hit Hull FC were 16/1 underdogs ahead of the match, but they played like every minute really does matter as a quick-fire double cut Wigan’s comfortable 14-point lead to a fragile two points.

A game which had produced more spills than thrills at least had a grandstand finish, and after Warriors were reduced to 12-men, many may have feared the end of their unbeaten Super League home run.

But Burgess eased any worries of an upset by scorching down the left touchline and diving over with just 26 seconds left on the clock.

The hard-fought victory moved them level at the top of the table with Leeds, ahead of their trip to Catalans Dragons today, but didn’t bite into the for-and-against as they had hoped.

In a scratchy team display, John Bateman strengthened his England claims with another towering display. But Wane will be seeking improvements before their next game - a derby at St Helens next Friday night.

Wane had warned of the threat FC would pose; the trouble was, few people believed him after they lost 12 frontline players through injury.

Warriors had posted 44 or more points against FC in three of their last four meetings, and they headed into the contest knowing a thumping victory would cut Leeds’ for-and-against advantage in the Super League ladder.

And when Wigan were 18-0 up by the half-hour mark, many may have expected Hull’s heads to fall, and the home side to cut loose.

Instead, FC rallied with two tries to cut the deficit to just six points at the break - and they repeated the trend in the second.

It had all started so well for Wigan. The excellent Bateman and George Williams combined on the left, sending teenage centre Gildart away to mark his DW Stadium debut with a try.

Ryan Hampshire’s first of five goals made it 6-0 before Josh Charnley crossed from Anthony Gelling’s flick pass.

Bateman charged onto Sam Powell’s sharp pass to crash over from short-range to make it 18-0.

Then with five minutes to go before the interval, the game took an unexpected twist, as FC registered a quickfire double to offer them hope.

Jamie Shaul went the length of the field for their first - despite Bateman’s effort to track him down - after an attack involving Burgess and Gildart broke down. And then Jack Logan wriggled out of Smith’s tackle and darted over to stun the Wigan camp, Marc Sneyd nailing both conversions to make it 18-12.

With Wane’s instructions ringing in their ears, they pressed for a score which may ease any nerves early in the second-half, only for their efforts to break down - either through their own sloppiness or their opponents’ resolve.

The video referee ruled out two tries, by Sam Powell and Bateman, and fans may have wondered whether the home side were ever going to score. But Ben Flower answered those questions in emphatic fashion minutes later, powering through FC’s defence for his second try in successive matches. Hampshire’s goal wedged a 12-point margin between the two sides, and he followed that up with a penalty moments later.

But FC just wouldn’t lie down, and after Jordan Rankin crossed unopposed in the 70th minute - a try which could be tracked back to Liam Watts piercing break - Logan beat Charnley to a measured kick and arced under the sticks. Sneyd’s two conversions cut Wigan’s lead to a fragile two points, with seven minutes to go. Their cause wasn’t helped when Taulima Tautai was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle, before Burgess settled with the last play of the game.

Wigan: Hampshire; Charnley, Gelling, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Smith; Crosby, McIlorum, Flower, Tomkins, Bateman, Tautai. Subs: Powell, Clubb, Mossop, C Farrell.

Hull FC: Shaul; Lineham, Rankin, Logan, Naughton; Abdull, Sneyd; Paea, Houghton, Watts, Minichiello, Downs, Hadley. Subs: Paleaaesina, Turgut, Fash, Matongo.

Attendance: 12,028

Half-time: 18-12

Starman: John Bateman