WIGAN WARRIORS ground out a 13-6 win over Huddersfield to maintain the only 100 per cent record in the Super 8s and clinch a home semi-final.
The Warriors needed a try from Oliver Gildart three minutes from the end to finally end the resistance of the Giants and condemn them to a fourth successive defeat in an error-strewn match.
The game was played in persistent rain at the John Smith’s Stadium in the type of conditions Wigan might well experience if they reach the Grand Final at Old Trafford in October.
Giants coach Simon Woolford said his players resembled a tired team after they conceded five tries in the last 23 minutes of their game at Castleford a week earlier but there was little sign of fatigue from the Yorkshiremen.
They were led out by Ryan Hinchcliffe, who along with Jake Mamo was playing his final home game ahead of his return to Australia at the end of the season, and both caught the eye, along with young half-back Oliver Russell on his fifth Super League appearance.
“We had too many disruptions but it’s a better feeling than last week,” Woolford said. “Obviously the conditions weren’t great and we had a wounded team – we struggled to pick a 19-man squad earlier in the week – but, all things considered, the effort was fantastic and I’m really proud of them.
“At half-time we spoke about making sure we stay in the fight and making sure we didn’t fade like we did at Castleford and, to their credit, the boys dug in. There are a lot of positives to take out of it. We’re disappointed we didn’t win but there’s no shame.”
Morgan Escare provided the highlight of a drab first half, keeping his feet on the slippery surface to cut inside for the only try, fending off the attempted tackle of Alex Mellor.
Sam Tomkins had opened the scoring with a penalty and, as the visitors continued to dominate possession and territory, Greenwood got to the line only to have the ball stolen.
Having withstood all the pressure, Huddersfield enjoyed a purple patch in the second quarter and might have equalised on the stroke of half-time when substitute Matty English slide towards the line but was ruled to have lost his grip on the ball.
At half-time we spoke about making sure we stay in the fight and making sure we didn’t fade like we did at Castleford and, to their credit, the boys dug in.Simon Woolford
The home side began the second half as they finished the first, with Kruise Leeming and Colton Roche both making significant impact from the bench.
Full-back Lee Gaskell was inches away from gathering Danny Brough’s clever kick off the inside of his boot and beaten by the fingertips of Tomkins.
But Wigan edged further in front with a drop goal from Escare and they thought they had clinched victory when Tom Davies raced on to George Williams’s kick to the line but video referee Ben Thaler ruled a knock-on.
Hinchcliffe produced a half-break that was stopped by Greenwood but there was no stopping Leeming as he forced his way over from dummy half for a try that Brough converted.
Any hope Huddersfield had of finishing the job ended when Brough was sin-binned for a high tackle on Escare and a minute later Gildart crossed for the clinching try, to which Tomkins added his second goal.
Huddersfield Giants: Gaskell, Rankin, Mellor, Mamo, I. Senior, Russell, Brough, Lawrence, O’Brien, Matagi, Ta’ai, Roberts, Hinchcliffe. Substitutes: Leeming, Clough, English, Roche.
Wigan Warriors: Escare, Manfredi, Gildart, Sarginson, Davies, Williams, Tomkins, Clubb, Powell, Navarrete, Greenwood, Bateman, Sutton. Substitutes: Hamlin, Partington, Woods, Tautai.
Referee: Greg Dolan (RFL).