That’s more like it. A large, raucous crowd; two teams engaged in a tough forward battle; exciting tries from all over the field; players continuing when injured even if they really shouldn’t.This was more like what I expected and hoped from the playoffs. It was a very bizarre game that seemed to be over at half-time as Wigan raced into an 18-0 lead. Credit to Hull KR and Justin Morgan (apparently his half-time hairdryer routine worked) for making it interesting, because going into the final quarter it was very much anyone’s game again as Hull pulled back three tries.
Wigan won because they were able to exploit some shoddy defending by Hull KR. You have to wonder how the game would’ve panned out had Michael Dobson not gotten seriously injured early on, because he was targeted mercilessly by Wigan. However he had little to do with the softest try of the game, Iefeta Paleaasena’s ten metre charge though four defenders which could’ve been easily avoided with one more man going low in the tackle. The Robins’ defensive effort in the first simply wasn’t good enough, the Wigan forwards did the damage up the middle, and the ‘Sam Tomkins for England’ bandwagon kept marching on at full speed.
Then early in the second half Jake Webster made a line-break, and the game nearly turned on its head. Webster didn’t have the pace to go all teh way, and no support player was close enough to finish the job straight away, but from the ensuing play-the-ball a sweeping right-to-left passing move (including a beauty of a long pass from Paul Cooke) put Chris Welham over for a try. This led to a dramatic resurgence and tries from Peter Fox and Chaz I’Anson put the Robins a mere two points behind Wigan. Unfortunately for them Martin Gleeson finished off the game with two late tries, although the first one required a visit to the Video Ref. His second try was another lapse in concentration for KR as he waltzed through a massive hole in the defensive line to take Wigan through to the next round.
Like Huddersfield the night before, Hull KR have to be disappointed that a season in which they’ve made so much progress ended this way. However they’ll come back stronger for the experience and they at least put up a very commendable effort to get back into the game. As for Wigan, they’ll be a handful for any side they now come up against, and if it’s a Saints-Wigan derby for a Grand Final place then I think we could be in for a treat.