Wigan hit top thanks to Charnley's magic

Huddersfield 6 Wigan 20
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The Independent Online

The Super League title-holders were depleted but not defeated, as Josh Charnley guided them to a magnificently determined victory. The young winger, unknown and untested until a loan spell at Hull KR at the end of last season, did a bit of everything to help Wigan preserve this year's unbeaten record.

He scored one try, had a vital hand in the two others and saved a couple more, kicking four goals for good measure, but he was only the most eye-catching of a Wigan team making light of being without eight regulars.

"He's a talent. He was always going to be a great first-grade player," said the Wigan coach, Michael Maguire, of Charnley's role in taking Wigan to the top for the first time this season. "I was very proud of the team's defence. It was up there with our best."

With injuries, suspensions and sundry other absentees, it looked an eminently beatable side that Wigan put on the field here. That was not the way they played in the opening minutes, however. Having extracted a penalty for Jamie Simpson holding on in the tackle, the Warriors worked the ball towards the sticks for Thomas Leuluai to launch it to the left wing. Charnley caught it cleanly and had the presence of mind to turn it back inside for Sean O'Loughlin to score.

Charnley added to his good work by landing the difficult conversion and then tackled Simpson into touch after Kevin Brown had sent Leroy Cudjoe away. That was the first of a series of chances the Giants carved out in the first half, but they took only one of them. That was when Danny Brough put up a massive kick, which Amos Roberts missed completely. After bouncing around the ball finished up in the hands of Luke Robinson.

Brough kicked the goal and continued to give Roberts a dreadful pounding with his boot. Somehow Wigan survived. Better still, they edged ahead through Charnley's penalty before the break, though they had seen the worrying sight of Ryan Hoffman limping off to the dressing rooms a few minutes earlier to further limit their options.

They started the second half with a stroke of brilliance, making ground through their young forwards for O'Loughlin to chip to the corner and Charnley to time it perfectly to catch and touch down.

A run of three penalties conceded seemed to have worn down Wigan's defence, but Simpson's try was disallowed for a knock-on as the champions hung on.

Charnley's penalty edged Wigan toward the winning post, before his break and intuitive inside ball for Hoffman put it beyond doubt.

"There wasn't much between the teams," said the Huddersfield coach Nathan Brown. "We just have to be a bit better next time we play them."

Huddersfield Grix; Simpson, Cudjoe, Wardle, Hodgson; Brown, Brough; Mason, Lunt, Griffin, Gilmour, Fa'alogo, O'Donnell. Substitutes used Robinson, Faiumu, Crabtree, Horne.

Wigan Roberts; Goulding, Marsh, Carmont, Charnley; O'Loughlin, Leuluai; Prescott, McIlorum, Coley, Hansen, Hoffman, Farrell. Substitutes used Lima, Mossop, Tuson, Mellor.

Referee B Thaler (Wakefield).