Wakefield scored more points against Wigan than any side this season and are bound to wonder what they might have done yesterday if they had not played for 70 minutes with 12 men.
Their Australian prop Justin Poore was sent off for the second time this season, but, paradoxically, the Wildcats seemed to be lifted by the dismissal. Eventually they were overwhelmed by Wigan’s attacking flair and a hat-trick from Sam Tomkins.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t get a chance to play them with 13 men, but proud of the way we stuck at it,” said the Wildcats’ coach, Richard Agar. He had “no argument whatever” with the sending off, although he believed it could have been avoided with earlier intervention. “You just can’t do things like that. It’s not the 1980s.”
One of the small miracles of the Super League season so far is the way that Wigan, with so many players missing, have continued to win games without breaking stride. This week, they have added their injured leading tryscorer, Josh Charnley, and their captain, Sean O’Loughlin, to the list, along with Pat Richards, delayed in Australia at his brother’s wedding.
The result was a team yesterday with an average age of under 23, not that their youth seemed to hold them back in the early stages. Straight from Matty Smith’s kick-off, Wakefield allowed the ball to bounce into touch, conceding a scrum from which Wigan scored inside the first minute. Tomkins, captain for the day in place of O’Loughlin, was largely responsible, coming into the line and releasing Iain Thornley.
Tim Smith was then penalised for holding Tomkins down and Anthony Gelling was soon bouncing out of a tackle to touch down in the corner.
The Wildcats seemed to have blown what was left of their chances when Poore was ordered off after 10 minutes for throwing a punch at Liam Farrell after a dispute at the play-the-ball. Oddly, though, the dismissal immediately disrupted Wigan more than it did Wakefield. Odder still, within 10 minutes, the Wildcats were ahead.
Vince Mellars did the initial damage with a weaving run for a handsome try. Paul Aiton’s clean break was equally startling and, even though his pass was knocked down, Richie Mathers had a simple pick-up to score.
Of course, it was too good to last for Wakefield. As the one-man disadvantage started to count, they conceded three tries in five minutes before half-time, with Tomkins, Darrell Goulding and Farrell the scorers. Wigan were soon at it again after the break, with Gelling and Tomkins each claiming a second. In between, Mellars was placed on report for a high challenge on Wigan’s impressive forward Greg Burke.
Wakefield always carried a threat of their own and earned tries from Lee Smith and their best player, Aiton.
The last word, went to the inspirational Tomkins, with a stunning length-of-the-field effort, but Wigan had not had a comfortable afternoon.
Wigan: Tomkins; Thornley, Goulding, Hughes, Gelling; Green, M Smith; Crosby, McIlorum, Flower, Tuson, Farrell, Burke. Substitutes used: Dudson, Taylor, Powell, Spencer.
Wakefield: Mathers; Fox, Collis, L Smith, Cockayne; Sykes, T Smith; Poore, Aiton, Wilkes, Annakin, Mellars, Washbrook. Substitutes used: Raleigh, Wood, Lauitiiti, Amor.
Referee: R Hicks (Oldham).