Wigan Warriors are just 80 minutes from an appearance in the Super League Grand Final after brushing aside league leaders Huddersfield Giants 22-8 in the first round of the playoffs at the John Smith’s Stadium.
The Warriors overcame a shaky start after going behind through Danny Brough’s try but a brace from Josh Charnley put Wigan on their way to victory before Blake Green’s try put the result beyond doubt.
Charnley’s tries saw him set a new record for scores in a season with 41 and is the first player in the Super League era to score over 40 tries.
Matty Smith kicked two drop goals to seal the deal and Wigan will enjoy a week off as Huddersfield will return to action next week.
Brough and Pat Richards kicked penalties from the halfway line as the sides went into half time at 8-8.
Wigan put their opponents on the back foot from the start of the second half and their pressure soon turned into points as Charnley scored his second try of the night.
Mistakes crept into Huddersfield’s game as the wet weather worked against them and Green and Smith combined to put the result beyond doubt.
The Giants started with three sets on Wigan’s line after Andy Powell was penalised for a ball steal and their pressure told through Brough’s opening try. After forcing two drop outs the half back darted through a gap in the line and sidestepped an attempted tackle from Sam Tomkins to slide in under the posts.
After some extended pressure from Wigan Brett Ferres almost doubled the Giants’ advantage but was held up on the line by three defenders. Unfortunately for the Giants a poor pass from Shaun Lunt was picked up by Wigan and they charged to the other end of the field forcing a drop out of their own.
Wigan were eventually brought back into the game by Charnley who scored on the wing. Craig Kopczak coughed the ball up with a knock on and Wigan went on the attack. Smith passed the ball out right and Charnley found space on the wing after Brough raced out of the defensive line. Charnley then beat Joe Wardle and slid five metres on the wet turf to score.
Huddersfield then gave up two points from their kick off after the restart went out on the full after Green touched the ball with his foot over the line at the back of the in-goal area. The Warriors elected to take the two points and Richards kicked a penalty from the halfway line to put his side ahead.
Brough levelled the scores for the Giants with an equally impressive penalty just before half time. Wigan gave away the penalty for an obstruction after Michael McIlorum blocked Jason Chan as he tried to take advantage of a free play following a knock on. Brough’s effort from just inside the halfway line was successful and brought the score to 8-8.
The Warriors raced out of the blocks at the start of the second half and forced Huddersfield on the back foot with a number of goal line drop outs. They took the lead once again through Charnley’s second try as Smith and Tomkins linked up to create gaps in the defensive line and the full back threw a long ball out to Charnley who dived over to score.
Smith kicked a drop goal with his second attempt to put some daylight between the two sides and Wigan’s lead increased to 15-8.
Green secured Wigan’s place in the next round of the playoffs with a superb try in the 60th minute. Wigan were given the ball back after a knock on from Michael Lawrence and Green found space after dummying a pass and darting through a gap and he sidestepped Scott Grix’s attempted tackle to score his first try in five months.
Smith kicked another drop goal after the final hooter to put the icing on the cake for Wigan ahead of their week off.
Huddersfield will now face the lowest-placed Super League side in the next round of the playoffs and will know their opponents after Saturday’s game between St Helens and Hull KR.
Huddersfield: Grix, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Murphy; Brough, Robinson; Crabtree, Lunt, Kopczak, Ferres, Chan, Ferguson
Subs: Faiumu, Lawrence, Patrick, Wood
G: Brough 2/2
Wigan: Tomkins, Charnley, Gelling, Thornley, Richards; Green, Smith; Powell, McIllorum, Mossop, Hansen, Farrell, Flower
Subs: Hughes, Dudson, Taylor, Crosby
T: Charnley 2, Green
G: Richards 3/3
DG: Smith 2
Half Time: 8-8
Full Time: 8-22
Referee: Phil Bentham
RLFANS Man of the Match: Blake Green