Wigan belatedly respond to Maguire's call
Wigan 28 Huddersfield 10
Monday 03 May 2010
Wigan mislaid their Super League leadership in Edinburgh for a night, but reclaimed it with a commanding second-half performance against one of their major challengers. Hanging on grimly at half-time, they scored four tries after the break before Huddersfield could provide any answer.
As a centrepiece of the Super League's Murrayfield weekend, it was not an entirely satisfying experience. The two sides – arguably the best in the competition so far this season – cancelled each other out in the first half and Wigan, directed by their half-backs Thomas Leuluai and Sam Tomkins, dominated the second too completely for the game to develop much as a spectacle.
Both coaches made changes for what was widely expected to be the highlight of the weekend, with Michael Maguire tweaking the Wigan team surprisingly beaten by Harlequins by giving a debut to Steffan Marsh in place of the injured Martin Gleeson and handing a rare outing to Karl Pryce. For Huddersfield, Nathan Brown made his mark by controversially resting Jamahl Lolesi and David Fa'alogo. Brown had no qualms afterwards about that decision. "Our squad showed in the first half that it was capable," he pointed out.
Pryce's understandable rustiness – he has not been used in the first team since last July – was probably responsible for a couple of early handling glitches. But Wigan's general lack of composure was also illustrated by Sean O'Loughlin's uncharacteristically wild challenge on Luke Robinson, taking him both late and high; he was lucky not to see a card. "Officials need to do more to protect the smaller players," said Brown pointedly. "If not, we have players who will."
Justice of a sort was done when the Giants scored from the penalty award, Robinson emphasising his recovery with the pass that released another of Huddersfield's ex-Wigan contingent, Lee Gilmour, on one of his familiar diagonal scoring runs.
Wigan had scarcely been in the game, but on their first real foray into Giants' territory, they claimed the equalising try. The quick hands of Sam Tomkins were largely responsible, as he took a ball from Leuluai and shipped a cut-out pass to Darrell Goulding all in one crisp movement.
Huddersfield continued to have the bulk of possession, but Wigan could have gone in with a half-time lead against the run of play, if Marsh, lacking the experience to squeeze in at the corner, had not been taken into touch by Leroy Cudjoe's tackle.
The first 15 minutes of the second half ensured that the missed opportunity did not greatly matter. Sam Tomkins started the surge with a poacher's try, following up his own deflected kick to touch down. Three minutes later, George Carmont made a telling break and Pryce's bulk took him over the tryline. He has been the club's forgotten man, but Maguire said: "He has turned a corner and, if he maintains that, he will get a lot of opportunities."
Carmont scored himself when Pat Richards leapt to claim Leuluai's high kick and steer it back, and the game was well out of the Giants' reach by the time Leuluai capped his fine individual display by bouncing through a series of tackles to touch down.
Eorl Crabtree, starting the match rather than playing his customary role as an impact substitute, was one Giant who was not going to take it lying down. He seemed intent on taking on the Warriors on his own and his try was well deserved, even if he and his team-mates were well and truly beaten by that time. "As the table shows, they're a bit better than us at the moment, but we live to fight another day," said Brown.
For Maguire, the win was vindication of the changes he had made. "Last week was a wake-up call for us," he said.
Huddersfield: Cudjoe; Grix, Lawrence, Whatuira, Hodgson; Brown, Brough; Crabtree, Robinson, Mason, Gilmour, Horne, Aspinwall. Substitutes used: Raleigh, Drew, Faiumu, Patrick.
Wigan: Richards; Goulding, Marsh, Carmont, Pryce; S.Tomkins, Leuluai; Fielden, McILorum, Coley, Bailey, J.Tomkins, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: Riddell, Paleaaesina, O'Carroll, Farrell.
Referee: B.Thaler (Wakefield).
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