Going two points clear at the top of Super League was the reward for a Wigan Warriors win as they faced a struggling Hull KR at the DW Stadium on a chilly afternoon in Wigan.
A win for the Robins may not change their league position but crucially it would lift them four points clear of the Toronto Wolfpack and closer to safety from the relegation spot.
The two sides last met in August 2019 when the Warriors registered a 36-18 win at the DW building on a 52-10 win that they had recorded a month earlier. It had been a much closer game between the two sides in June when just a single point separated the two sides. Wigan were the strong pre-game favourites to register another win.
A breakaway try opened the scorting as Ethan Ryan took a Ryan Brierley pass after the Robins scrum-half picked up a wayward pass and broke downfield before finding his winger in support to outpace the Wigan defence and go on to score. With thirteen minutes on the clock Brierley added the extras for 6-0.
Hull KR couldn’t halt a marching Jackson Hasting on twenty as he ran through the broken defence to get a four pointer. Zak Hardaker put his conversion between the uprights to level the scores.
An awful defensive mistake giften Wigan the ball which was compounded with a penalty. Wigan gave the ball some air and Liam Farrell bamboozled the KR defence to go in for Wigans second. Hardaker added the conversion for 12-6, as it was turning into one way traffic.
On thirty-four minutes Liam Marshall dropped a high kick straight into the arms of Greg Minikin who strode over the line for the Robins second. Brierley kicked the touchline conversion to tie the sides up on twelve each.
Hastings supported a Bevan French break to take the ball and walk in for the third Warriors try on thirty-seven minutes. Wigan exploited an injury in the KR defence as they rounded Will Dagger to get the points. Hardaker added the conversion, the home side with an 18-12 lead.
Dagger stopped a certain try with seconds remaining and within seconds Dom Manfredi was also held up over the line as KR prevented a crushing try before the interval and the visitors held on to trail by just six at the break.
A terrific break, for the length of the field, saw Brierley complete a move started by Sean Kenny-Dowell to get the first score of the second half and narrow the Wigan lead. Brierley pushed his kick right of the uprights, the visitors still behind by two.
A Minikin try was ruled out for a forward pass on fifty and three minutes later Sam Powell took an offload from Thomas Leuluai to crash the line and go between the KR defenders. Hardaker added the conversion for 24-16, daylight for the Warriors.
Minikin missed a tackle on Liam Marshall on sixty-four minutes after Kenny-Dowall had jumped out of the Robins defensive line. The winger scored wide but Hardaker had no problem in adding the conversion for 30-16, the points in the bag for a Wigan side returning to the top of the table.
Wigan will feel that they ‘escaped’ to some extent, despite the fourteen point win. KR took the game to them for the full eighty minutes and despite losing a number of players to injury through the match they were still giving one hundred percent at the final hooter. A couple of poor defensive errors cost tries at just the wrong time in the game and in the end it cost the Robins.
Wigan will point to the league table, which they now top by two points, and suggest that it is not how you win, simply that you do win.
Warriors: French, Manfredi, Hardaker (5G), Bibby, Marshall (T), Leuluai, Hastings (2T), Partington, Powell (T), Byrne, Isa, Farrell (T), Smithies. Subs: Burgess, Flower, Havard, Smith.
Hull KR: Dagger, Minikin (T), Kenny-Dowall, Linnett, Ryan (T), Keyes, Brierley (T, 2G), Mulhern, Minchella, Lawler, Livett, Storton, Gee. Subs: Abdull, Murray, Litten, Maher.
Referee: Tom Grant.