Wigan Warriors 16 Huddersfield Giants 12: Struggling Giants let winning position slip

GIVEN the distinct lack of form of both sides, this was never going to be a classic.

All that mattered, though, was two Super League points. Or an improved win percentage in modern parlance.

Unfortunately, for Huddersfield Giants, it was the desperate Wigan Warriors who claimed that success, last season’s beaten Grand Finalists at last ending a five-game losing run.

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It is struggling Huddersfield who have now lost five successive games themselves and they will be smarting at how this one slipped out of their grasp.

They were 12-0 ahead after just 13 minutes courtesy of converted Chris McQueen and Leroy Cudjoe tries and, even though Wigan fought back to lead 16-12 with Harry Smith’s 62nd minute try, the visitors had a glorious chance to snatch it.

Louis Senior slid over three minutes from time but the young winger’s score was pulled back for a forward pass from the otherwise excellent Ash Golding.

It summed up Huddersfield’s afternoon; they hardly had any attacking opportunities in the second period but when they did, both Sam Wood and Will Pryce squandered good possession with forward passes.

Giants gave debuts to hooker Nathan Peats and prop Nathaniel Peteru, who had come in from Leigh Centurion on season-long loans on Saturday, ex-St Helens prop Jack Ashworth going the other way.

Wigan Warriors Mitch Clark beats Huddersfield Giants' Chris McQueen to score. (PAUL CURRIE/SWPIX)

However, like Wigan, they were missing a raft of players for various reasons and England winger Jermaine McGillvary was also a late withdrawal before kick-off for medical reasons.

Nevertheless, Watson’s side started confidently.

McQueen, the Australian second-row who has missed the last three games due to Covid, benefited after the ball came loose following Joe Greenwood’s charge for the line.

Olly Russell converted and the visitors were in again following a fine, impromptu effort.

Huddersfield Giants' Chris McQueen celebrates his try (PAUL CURRIE/SWPIX)

Jake Wardle grubbered hopefully down the left on the last tackle and, when the ball ricocheted back to the young centre, he hoisted a crossfield kick that Olly Ashall-Bott did wonderfully to palm down after getting above Oliver Gildart.

Cudjoe was on hand to finish off to give Watson’s side a perfect start.

Wigan, predictably, hit back but Huddersfield’s defence was up to the task of holding out in the pressure that came.

After a sustained spell on their own line, Josh Jones’ big hit on Brad Singleton eventually saw the Wigan prop cough up possession and ease the pressure.

Huddersfield Giants' Olly Ashall-Bott is caught high in the air by Wigan's Liam Marshall. (PAUL CURRIE/SWPIX)

Liam Marshall thought he had eventually got over for the hosts with a spectacular finish in the corner but the video referee rightly chalked it off as it emerged the winger’s hand hit the touchline just as he touched down.

Huddersfield struggled to build any pressure of their own, especially given three times they were caught in possession on the last tackle, their lack of experienced halves plain to see.

Nevertheless, with a rare opportunity, Greenwood was held-up as he barged close after a superb kick-return from full-back Ashton Golding in the 35th minute.

Russell badly miscued a drop-goal attempt at the next play and it proved costly.

Rather than being 13-0 up, just a couple of minutes later Giants were left just 12-6 ahead at the break after Marshall did get a try, sprinting on to a clever Harry Smith kick.

Wigan should have levelled when Mitch Clark, the ex-Castleford Tigers prop, too easily fended off McQueen 10m out to score but Smith hit an upright with the simple conversion attempt.

That meant Huddersfield narrowly stayed ahead but Wigan gradually wore them down, aided by poor options such as Sam Wood giving a poor forward pass when the visitors did finally get some possession in good position.

They were not helped by more injuries, Ashall-Bott leaving the field after suffering a number of head knocks and then Peteru also departing with a cut eye.

Smith atoned for his error when Wigan did finally take the lead for the first time in the 62nd minute.

Jackson Hastings was the architect, attracting Cudjoe just enough to send Liam Farrell coasting through a rare gap in Giants’ defence, Smith motoring up in support and, this time, also adding the conversion.

Senior thought he had levelled it but Giants - who face Wigan again in a rearranged game at John Smith’s Stadium on Friday - were left ruing a tenth defeat from 13 Super League games.

Wigan Warriors: Hastings; Hanley, Bibby, Gildart, Marshall; Smith, Leuluai; Singleton, Powell, Clubb, Farrell, Pearce-Paul, Bullock. Substitutes: Byrne, Clar

Huddersfield Giants: Golding; Ashall-Bott, Cudjoe, Jake Wardle, Louis Senior; Wood, Russell; Yates, Peats, Gavet, Jones, McQueen, Greenwood. Substitutes: Pryce, Hewitt, Peteru, Stevens.