Wigan Warriors 32 Huddersfield Giants 8

Shaun Wane
Shaun Wane

WIGAN cruised into their third successive Grand Final with a composed and dominant play-offs performance.

Fit-again John Bateman registered two of their five tries and Matty Bowen sparkled, kicking six goals in his farewell appearance from the DW Stadium.

But right across the board, this was a strong team performance, flashy at times and gutsy throughout.

The victory ensured they stretched their unbeaten home run, which trails back to their defeat against NRL Grand Finalists Brisbane in February.

The Warriors will meet the winners of the other semi-final, between Leeds and St Helens, and - whatever the result in the showcase decider - they have qualified for the World Club Series at the start of next year.

Bateman’s return from injury - married with Dom Manfredi’s four-try haul last Friday nigth - forced Josh Charnley out of an otherwise unchanged line-up.

With so much at stake, there were signs of nerves early on, but they were quickly settled as they broke the deadlock in the fifth minute.

Ben Flower - of Grand Final red-card fame last year - told his team-mates beforehand he wanted to make amends, and he went about doing that with a charging, powerful run for the opening try.

Bowen’s conversion made it 6-0. Oliver Gildart threatened with a classy break moments later, signalling their intent, and for a long spell they kept pressed in Giants’ territory.

Huddersfield, though, finished the season with the second-best defence behind Wigan. And when the home side were unable to crack it open again, Bowen slotted over a 15th minute penalty.

Sam Powell replaced Micky McIlorum with six minutes to go, and made an almost-immediate impression. Receiving the ball unexpectedly, he angled a kick to the corner, where Dom Manfredi beat Aaron Murphy to the ball and offloaded to Bateman, who finished magnificently.

Super League top tryscorer Jermain McGIllvary slipped past Burgess, setting up a tense finish, and - on the stroke of half-time - Brough booted a penalty to cut the home side’s lead to 10 points.

The Giants had the better chances early in the second-half, but desperate defending - Liam Farrell held up Brett Ferres, then McGillvary was bundled into touch - preserved their two-score advantage.

And Warriors tightened their grip on the contest with two tries before the hour-mark.

First, a crisp passing move to the right found Manfredi, who muscled through for his fifth try in two games - and on his 22nd birthday. Bowen’s conversion stretched their lead to 18-2.

And full-back Bowen played a role in the next try, picking up a loose ball and unleashing Burgess, who charged 60m before being hunted down by fellow Dream Team winger McGillvary. From that position, Bateman chased a kick and while he didn’t ground the ball, was awarded a rare penalty try when the video referee ruled he was impeded by full-back Scott Grix.

Brett Ferres angled over in the 68th minute, converted by Danny Brough.

But the night belonged to Wigan, and Tony Clubb crowned the magnificent win on the death.

Wigan: Bowen; Manfredi, Bateman, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Smith; Crosby, McIlorum, Flower, J Tomkins, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Subs: Powell, Clubb, Mossop, Patrick.

Huddersfield: Grix; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Connor, Murphy; Brough, Ellis; Kopczak, Robinson, Huby, Wardle, Hughes, Ferres. Subs: Crabtree, Bailey, Lawrence, Ta’ai.

Referee: Ben Thaler

Half-time: 12-2

Attendance: 10,035

Starman: John Bateman