HULL FC had wanted to show their potential as Grand Final contenders last night, but instead were given a stark lesson about the levels of performance required for any such occasion by Super League leaders Wigan.
On the back of wins against Hull KR and Salford, Peter Gentle had urged his side to prove they are worth considering when it comes to the forthcoming play-offs.
But, given they were already missing seven first-teamers, saw Jordan Turner withdraw late on and England centre Kirk Yeaman helped off with an ankle injury midway through the first half, this was always going to be a stern task.
Further bad injury news followed after the match when it was revealed second rower Jay Pitts had suffered a suspected broken collar bone, while Liam Watts also suffered a knee injury.
Wigan, who had plenty of absenteeism themselves, were far from their best in front of a massive crowd of 17,736.
Yet they still had way too much class, Sam Tomkins regularly toying with the Hull defence and Super League’s leading try-scorer Josh Charnley running in a hat-trick to highlight the sizeable chasm as they established a five-point lead at the top.
Hull’s woe, meanwhile, could be added to after Joe Westerman was put on report for a crude high challenge on former team-mate Epalahame Lauaki.
It was probably borne out of frustration after seeing his side wilt amid Wigan’s stranglehold and so the Airlie Birds remain in sixth having failed to close the gap on fourth-placed Catalan Dragons, who arrive in East Yorkshire next Sunday to offer another test of those credentials.
There were some positives last night, not least another encouraging performance from the young winger Tom Lineham, who scored his third try in only his second Super League start.
The former rugby union player, who first caught the eye with York City Knights, is certainly raw but his sheer physicality saw him twice brush off Gareth Hock, no less, and he poised a danger every time he received possession.
There was the usual endeavour from captain Andy Lynch and Richard Whiting, who was Turner’s late replacement, while Willie Manu threatened sporadically.
But Hull had not won here since 2005 and, from the moment Tomkins opened the scoring inside two minutes, they never looked like ending that barren run.
The England full-back may be one of the most evasive runners in the world game, but he needed little of that skill to beat a static visiting defence from close range.
Hull got closer to him next time around but in doing so created space for him to send George Carmont careering away, Hock supporting for the finish.
By the time Wigan had added their third try in the 16th minute, the deed seemed done.
Tomkins was again central to it as – after Sean O’Loughlin had initially penetrated Hull’s brittle middle – he took delivery and produced a delayed pass to the right where Charnley arrowed in off his wing past a grounded Jamie Foster.
The England international secured his second soon after following another all too simple wide passing movement.
Hull, who had created few opportunities of their own, were grateful he could only manage one conversion, leaving them just 18-0 down instead of much worse.
When they secured some rare attacking position, Manu lost possession when trying to stride clear and then – in the incident just prior to his injury – Yeaman perhaps should have gone himself after a smart blindside move rather than feeding Foster who was soon shackled by an anticipating Tomkins.
Chris Green wasted another chance when he ran an obstruction, much to the frustration of the Hull faithful, before Ryan McGoldrick delivered another benign kick to leave Gentle’s side seemingly destined to be left picking off scraps.
But Wigan had been slack with some ball coming out of their own half and, when Harrison Hansen was the latest to spill, the visitors finally found some much-needed crispness.
Stand-off McGoldrick, the recent signing from Castleford, picked out a brilliant long pass which Whiting collected and he showed all his usual composure to slip Lineham in at the corner.
Foster, who had kicked 13 goals from as many attempts in his two games since joining from St Helens on loan, missed the difficult attempt but his side suddenly had some added vigour to their play.
They should have added a second when Tom Briscoe, again operating at full-back, waltzed through but Foster – predictably booed on every touch by the home fans – could not gather his reverse pass.
And then a lazy Westerman pass out of dummy-half, which typified Hull’s night, saw Aaron Heremaia drop possession on his own 20m line.
From there Matty Smith’s grubber was picked up by Tomkins. McGoldrick tackled him before he even got the ball, but still could not prevent the try being scored seconds before the interval.
The powerful centre Jack Hughes romped clear on the outside of McGoldrick to set up Charnley’s hat-trick on 50 minutes.
The ex-Hull KR wideman now has 30 tries this term and, with six goals, has also eclipsed Catalan’s Scott Dureau as the competition’s leading points scorer.
Charnley showed his defensive strength produced a try-saving tackle on Foster before Smith again sliced through the Hull middle for Liam Farrell to add another score.
Michael McIlorum also crossed before Hull scrum-half Brett Seymour scrambled over as Wigan’s fierce defence was finally pierced again, but Shaun Wane’s side had the last word when young stand-off Sam Powell scored a debut try.
Wigan Warriors: Tomkins; Charnley, Hughes, Carmont, Thornley; Smith, Powell; Lauaki, McIlorum, Mossop, Hansen, Hock, O’Loughlin. Substitutes: Lima, Farrell, Tuson, Crosby.
Hull FC: Briscoe; Lineham, Whiting, Yeaman, Foster; McGoldrick, Seymour; Watts, Heremaia, Lynch, Manu, Westerman, Aspinwall. Substitutes: O’Meley, Pitts, Green, Nicklas.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury.