By THOMAS McCOOEY
THE League Leaders’ Shield is in the bag for Shaun Wane’s Wigan with a round of the regular season to spare but the Wigan boss wasn’t celebrating after picking up his first trophy.
“I’m battling myself here to be happy if I’m really honest,” said Wane after Wigan left it until the 76th minute to take the lead against Hull KR for the first time, coming back from a Super League record 26-point deficit.
“We need to fix things and we need to fix them quick,” said Wane, also adding: “I’m pleased we came back but I’m thinking back to the reasons why we went 26-0 down.”
Hull KR looked set to ensure history wouldn’t repeat itself (Wigan secured their first minor premiership in a decade at the same venue in 2010) when Craig Hall scooped up a Brett Finch pass which hit the deck in the third minute to race away and open the scoring. By the time Wigan could blink Lincoln Withers, Ben Galea and Jake Webster had all crossed in front of the visiting fans who had turned up for a party which the Rovers were trashing.
“There were too many errors and too many penalties,” said Wane – which was illustrated when Michael Dobson was gifted two points from a penalty conceded by Michael McIlorum midway through the first half at which point referee, Thierry Alibert felt the need to pull the hooker aside for a word.
Wigan eventually found the tryline thanks to Finch after Tommy Leuluai’s introduction after an 11-week-lay of on the half-hour and Darrell Goulding added to that just before halftime but it still looked set to be Hull K.R’s day.
The home side found their form of the first half hour after the restart and Wigan couldn’t live with their forwards as Lee Mossop resorted to conceding a penalty in the first set of the second half which led to Withers’ second score.
“There were times in that game where I knew we needed to change things and a lot of messages went on,” said Wane when at 32-12 with twenty minutes to go it looked as though Wigan’s bid for top spot would be decided by the outcome of the final round of the season. “There were times when I thought we’d lost it but we do have is a really good team spirit and a never say attitude amongst the senior players which rubs off on the younger players. I’m really pleased. I just wanted to win this game, as it turned-out I would’ve wanted to win it a bit more my way but it wasn’t to be.” he added.
The defeat for Rovers now ends their playoff hopes and Craig Sandercock was left to rue the part of the game he wanted to concentrate on most.
“Unfortunately that has been the story of our season,” he said. “All week we have been talking about the last five minutes of halves and we let them get 12 points.”
WIGAN 42 (P Richards 2 B Finch D Goulding G Hock G Carmont L Farrell J Charnley tries P Richards 5 goals) bt HULL KR 36 (Withers 2 Hall Galea Webster Hodgson tries Dobson 6 goals) at Craven Park. Referee: T Alibert. Crowd: 8845.
Final team lists:
HULL KR: Louis Sheriff; Liam Salter, Graeme Horne, Jake Webster, David Hodgson; Craig Hall, Michael Dobson; Rhys Lovegrove, Ben Galea, Con Mika, Mickey Pea, Lincoln Withers, Scott Taylor. Res: Josh Hodgson, Jason Netherton, Jordan Cox, Ryan O’Hara
WIGAN: Sam Tomkins; Josh Charnley, Darrell Goulding, George Carmont, Pat Richards; Brett Finch, Matty Smith; Sean O’Loughlin, Gareth Hock, Harrison Hansen, Ben Flower, Michael McIlorum, Jeff Lima. Res: Thomas Leuluai, Lee Mossop, Liam Farrell, Jack Hughes.