Wigan ensured they left their Wollongong party as winners, claiming a historic two competition points in the Southern Hemisphere with a 24-10 win over Hull FC at WIN Stadium on Saturday.
In what was a grand experiment for the Super League, last year’s Challenge Cup finalists played in front of a healthy and vocal crowd of 12, 416 – a figure greater than all three regular season fixtures between the traditional rivals last season.
A double to Warriors flyer Liam Marshall in the opening 12 minutes proved the decisive factor as Hull battled a horror evening on the injury front that left without a player on the bench.
Winger Bureta Faraimo was knocked senseless on kick return just three minutes into the match. It forced a re-shuffle that saw back-rower Danny Washbrook deployed at right centre among as host of other line-up rejigs as coach Lee Radford tried to keep up the with the injury toll.
Things worsened for the black and whites in the lead-up to halftime, with skipper Danny Houghton limping from the field with a calf injury 11 minutes before the break.
Mark Minichello joined him three minutes later, hobbling to the bench with an ankle injury. They remarkably drew level at 10-all moments later but couldn’t find the chalk again as the injuries took their toll.
Barge over efforts from forwards Ryan Sutton and Ben Flower provided the only points in a dour second half that was a considerable slow-down on the opening stanza.
It was a willing encounter, but fell short of the attacking spectacle both clubs had promised. Wigan coach Shaun Wane acknowledged as much post-match despite claiming the points.
“I think there was some decent stuff there but I think both teams can do better than what we did,” Wane said.
“I thought [we lacked] composure in that final third, we bombed five, six or seven tries. If we’d have been ruthless there could’ve been 40-50 points difference.
That’s what we need to look at. I’m happy with the win, I’m happy to travel all this way and get the two points but our goal-line attack in that final third wasn’t good enough.
“When we are ruthless about the way we attack and defend we’re going to be a very hard team to beat. The fact is we weren’t today.
“We came here to get two points. The main thing was win at all costs, but the manner is still annoying me a bit.”
Hull centre Jake Connor also carried a torn PCL through the match on a night that will leave Radford short on troops for this weekend’s clash with St George Illawarra.
“It was a tough night from Bureta’s first carry,” Radford
“We finished the game with no interchange and when it’s as humid as this, it was really difficult. It really affected our middles in a really negative way.
“We’ve got a decent middle but unfortunately the minutes they had to drag out showed one or two flaws in the game unfortunately.”
The Warriors opened the scoring through Marshall who dashed 50 metres to score after Liam Farrell split the Hull defence. Tomkins added the extras for a 6-0 lead after six minutes.
The try-scorer quickly turned villain spilling the ball on kickoff reception, though Hull couldn’t make them pay.
Marshall had his second, another long-range effort, six minutes later with Tomkins’ attempted conversion bouncing off the upright to keep the score at 10-0.
Hull eventually hit back through former Rabbitohs winger Fetuli Talanoa who provided an acrobatic finish to plant the ball just inside the chalk on eastern touchline.
Marc Sneyd’s attempted conversion was waved away, keeping the margin at six 14 minutes before the break.
Marshall looked to have picked up his hat-trick when he won the race to a George Williams grubber in the Hull in-goal before replays showed he failed to ground the ball.
Wigan looked certain to score twice in the space of three tackles six minutes before the break only for Washbrook and Jake Connor to both pull off try-saving efforts.
Starved of possession and field position, managed to draw level after Marshall spilled a Jamie Shaul grubber in his own in-goal with Jordan Abdull on hand to plant the scraps.
Sneyd knocked over the conversion to level up at 10-all four minutes before the break. Wigan re-took the lead via a 40-metre penalty goal to Tomkins to take a two-point cushion into halftime.
Ryan Sutton crashed over off a short ball from Sam Powell five minutes after the resumption to push the lead back out to eight after Tomkins successful conversion.
Minichello returned but Hull’s injury woes continued with prop Liam Watts succumbing to a hamstring injury in the 62nd minute.
Ben Flower sealed the result 10 minutes from time when be barged over from close range, allowing Tomkins to push the margin out to beyond two converted tries.
Tomkins and Hull centre Josh Griffin both had early showers after being yellow carded after a scuffle four minutes from fulltime.