Wigan Warriors 22 Huddersfield Giants 12: Inga the Winger remembered as Wigan edge it

Wigan Warriors pay respects to Va’aiga Tuigamala (ALEX WEHITEHEAD/SWPIX)Wigan Warriors pay respects to Va’aiga Tuigamala (ALEX WEHITEHEAD/SWPIX)
Wigan Warriors pay respects to Va’aiga Tuigamala (ALEX WEHITEHEAD/SWPIX)
ON A night where Wigan Warriors remembered Va’aiga Tuigamala, it was always going to be difficult for Huddersfield Giants to prosper and climb to the summit of Betfred Super League.

News broke this morning of the death of the legendary dual-code star Tuigamala at the age of just 52.

Known globally as ‘Inga the Winger’, the former All Blacks star was a formidable powerhouse who lit up both union and league.

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Wigan fans, of course, remembered him fondly after he scored 62 tries in 102 games for them during five success-laden seasons in the 1990s.

Huddersfield Giants' Tui Lolohea  (ALEX WEHITEHEAD/SWPIX)Huddersfield Giants' Tui Lolohea  (ALEX WEHITEHEAD/SWPIX)
Huddersfield Giants' Tui Lolohea (ALEX WEHITEHEAD/SWPIX)

There was an impeccably-respected minute’s silence before tonight’s game - and some suitably thunderous collisions once the action did get underway.

Huddersfield, looking to maintain their 100 per cent winning start to the new season with a third straight win, were 16-6 down inside just 22 minutes and in danger of being blown away by Matty Peet’s side.

Nevertheless, with big impacts off the bench from Matty English, Joe Greenwood and Sebastine Ikahihifo they recovered to make a real fist of the encounter.

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Unfortunately, against such an excellent defence, they missed the guile and creativity of scrum-half Theo Fages and hooker Danny Levi who both started suspensions.

Tui Lolohea, who scored his first try for the West Yorkshire club, and former Wigan academy product Olly Russell, did their utmost to create something and they were just 16-12 behind early in the second period.

However, the hosts, who saw evergreen Liam Farrell score another brace of tries, eventually regained control to secure their third win from three.

When Wigan lost Cade Cust to a head injury less than 30 seconds into the game, Huddersfield must have thought it was going to be their night.

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However, the hosts quickly overcame the loss of their Australian stand-off - who has made an instant impact since joining from Manly Sea Eagles - with Tommy Leuluai smartly performing a runaround with the incisive Kai Pearce-Paul to put Liam Farrell over in the eighth minute.

Giants responded when Lolohea forced a drop-out and scrum-half Russell shaped to go left before coming back the opposite way and finding Chris McQueen who muscled over for his fourth try in just three games.

Will Pryce’s conversion leveled the game but McQueen fumbled in the next set and Wigan quickly made the veteran Australian pay for his error.

Cust, who passed his HIA, was straight back into the action as he found Farrell with a pass that got the England second-row proving too strong for Pryce close to the line.

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Things got worse for Huddersfield when they meekly conceded a try on the first tackle direct from a scrum just 15m out, Jai Field this time providing the assist although Jake Bibby had no right to score.

Zak Hardaker, on his 300th career appearance, slotted the second of his three goals for that 16-6 lead and it looked ominous for Ian Watson’s side.

However, they steadied well and forced some pressure of their own but Wigan were always up to the task, collaring Russell on the last tackle and also forcing Leroy Cudjoe into touch.

That said, Patrick Mago was fortunate not to receive a card after a high tackle on Josh Jones.

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At the start of the second period, Greenwood was also just denied by the desperate Wigan defence.

However, just as the visitors looked like they were running out of options, Adam O’Brien darted clear on the last tackle in the 48th minute and found Russell inside whose lovely chip back to the wing saw Innes Senior collect and feed Lolohea.

Pryce improved but Tommy Leuluai, showing no signs of his 36 years, made a break soon after that saw Sam Powell put John Bateman over and, from there, it was always tough for Watson’s side.

Russell’s chip saw McGillvary go close but the England winger could not cleanly touch down and Huddersfield had to scramble hard to deny Pearce-Paul at the other end.

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Wigan Warriors: Field; Hardaker, Bibby, Pearce-Paul, Marshall; Cust, Leuluai; Singleton, Powell, Ellis, Farrell, Bateman, Isa. Substitutes: Mago, Smithies, Partington, Byrne.

Huddersfield Giants: Lolohea; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Leutele, I Senior; Pryce, Russell; Hill, O’Brien, Trout, Jones, McQueen, Yates. Substitutes: English, Greenwood, Ikahihifo, Golding.

Referee: Tom Grant (Leeds)