Wakefield 30 Wigan 20

A bad Friday before Good Friday.

Friday, 12th April 2019, 9:59 pm
Updated Friday, 12th April 2019, 11:09 pm
Action from Wakefield vs Wigan. Photo: James Heaton

Wigan will head into the derby with areas to urgently address after a seventh defeat of the Super League campaign left them just two points above bottom club Leeds.

Joe Burgess' hat-trick took his tally to eight tries in three matches but this was not a comfortable or enjoyable night for Adrian Lam's side.

Like the loss at Castleford a week earlier, they let a lead slip from their grasp, conceded too many penalties and leaked some soft tries.

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Action from Wakefield vs Wigan. Photo: James Heaton

Despite scoring four tries - all down their left channel, again - they were too often clunky in attack, and lacked penetration down the middle.

The fact gutsy Wakefield lost four players during the game - leaving Chris Chester with no subs and forcing big-prop David Fifita to motor through the full game - only illustrated that the Warriors should have done better.

The final scoreline only hints at the drama.

Wigan held a 4-0 lead until the 36th minute and yet - incredibly - trailed 16-4 at half-time after leaking three back-to-back-to-back tries in four manic minutes.

Wakefield powered on after the interval to open up a 20-point gap and while Wigan didn't throw in the towel, the hosts kept them at jabbing distance away.

Those seeking positives can look to the past, and remember that at this exact stage three years ago, an injury-hit Wigan were hammered 62-0 on this ground - and went on to win the title.

Or they could look to the future and the encouragement of teenage forward Morgan Smithies' industrious performance.

But overall this was a really disappointing night for Wigan, on a ground they have struggled on in the past, at a time when they needed a confidence-boosting win.

Zak Hardaker's withdrawal on game day for family reasons made an arduous even more difficult.

Morgan Escare earned a late call-up to the full-back role, while elsewhere Tom Davies and Jake Shorrocks replaced injured Dom Manfredi and Jarrod Sammut respectively.

Liam Paisley came in for Joe Greenwood, Smithies earned his first start - at loose forward - while Joe Shorrocks became the third academy-graduate to earn a debut this year as a late sub'.

Wakefield, fourth in the ladder, must have been smelling blood and started the game with real intent.

They enjoyed the better of the position, and the majority of the possession, in an opening quarter in which they lost prop Anthony England to a knee injury.

Jacob Miller had a try ruled out for double-movement while, at the other end, Davies went closest for the Warriors when he chased Thomas Leuluai's stabbed kick through.

Burgess sparked their breakthrough, taking Escare's pass and scorching 80m on a cross-field break to set-up the platform from which he crossed in the corner later in the set.

It was his sixth try in the last three matches and the 100th of his career, taking in England, Sydney Roosters and Souths as well.

Escare missed the conversion.

Aside from Burgess' break, young forwards Paisley and Smithies provided some of their highlights with dogged defensive efforts.

Jake Shorrocks tried to stamp his authority at half-back, but where Sammut's absence was felt was Wigan's kicking game, with clearing kicks ranging from pedestrian to poor.

Wakefield lost a second player to injury when centre Reece Lyne hobbled off on the half-hour.

But they still managed to turn the game on its head in four frantic minutes before half-time with three tries - two of which fell in the 'soft' category.

Craig Kopczak drove over from short-range and, from the restart Joe Arundel finished off a stylish attack including a neat interchange of passing between Miller and Ryan Hampshire.

Wigan had expected Fifita to trouble them down the middle but in the last set before half-time, he rampaged down the left wing to send Max Jowitt racing away.

And with Danny Brough adding two of three conversions, they took a 16-4 lead into half-time.

Whatever Lam told his players at half-time, he could not have accounted for his side spilling the ball from the kick-off - providing the hosts the position for Ben Jones-Bishop to arc around a stretched line. Brough's boot made it 22-4.

Jake Shorrocks burst through to create a good chance but far too often, what half-chances they carved out either broke down or were easily repelled.

Brough struck a penalty to open up a 20-point margin and four-scores ahead, it seemed the match was settled.

Wigan, though, had bursts of quality between their loose play, scoring two tries - sandwiching Jones-Bishop's second - to cut the margin to 30-14.

Williams angled at the line and powered through two defenders in the 53rd minute and Gildart's flick pass send Burgess over in the corner for his second try.

Escare added one conversion and his the post with the other. And when Trinity lost a fourth player to injury - hooker Kyle Wood - they were left with no available subs. Incredibly, big-man Fifita did the entire game as Burgess' late try gave the final scoreline some more respectability.