Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane applauded the commitment of his players despite seeing them narrowly beaten in an intense thriller against Warrington Wolves.
Tries for Wigan’s Sam Tomkins and Anthony Gelling cancelled out scores from Ben Westwood and Joel Monaghan, but the Wolves clinched it at the death through Micky Higham and Chris Hill.
The Warriors were missing nine first-team players through injury and Wane insists there was plenty to be positive about.
“For me it was a moral victory,” he said. “I’m immensely proud of my players to come here with a team like that against a quality opposition and to push them really close.
“One thing I won’t question is our desire to win games and the pride of playing for this club but there’s an overriding sadness because we deserved something from the game.
“It was a couple of individual defensive errors so the players are really upset themselves that they didn’t get anything out of it but they just need to understand this feeling.
“It’s a learning curve. We’re a very, very young squad and much smaller than Warrington and to stay in that battle and end up with nothing at the end is tough to swallow.”
Warrington opened the scoring inside seven minutes when England international Westwood forced his way through two Warriors defenders before Brett Hodgson added the extras.
Wigan came close with Pat Richards crashing over the line on 18 minutes but a superb tackle from Monaghan denied him the four points.
The winger extended Wire’s cushion on the half-hour mark when Lee Briers’ grubber-kick sneaked past the outstretched arm of Richards for Monaghan to pounce onto and score.
Wigan started the second-half with venom as Tomkins tore a hole in the Wolves defence and stretched to score inside three minutes before Richards added the two-pointer.
Gelling drew the visitors level on 51 minutes, latching onto Tomkins’ pass to cruise over the whitewash unopposed before Richards nudged the Warriors ahead with his boot.
Wigan looked to have weathered the storm with six minutes remaining but Higham capped off a great individual performance by pouncing on Chris Riley’s well-placed kick, giving Warrington back the advantage.
And Hill sealed the victory three minutes later by forcing his way over the line from two metres out before Hodgson kicked his third goal of the night.
Wigan have not beaten Warrington at the Halliwell Jones Stadium now since 2010 but remain three points clear ahead of Huddersfield Giants at the summit of Super League.
The Warriors face Castleford Tigers on Friday and Wane believes the quick turnaround will give his players a chance to prove their mental strength.
He added: “It’s like an Easter period. It’s a test for us, a test for the staff and a test for the players and it’s one I’m genuinely looking forward to.
“To see how we respond with Friday’s performance will tell me something about the mental toughness of our players – I still expect a good performance and I know we’ll get one.”
Picture courtesy of ukrugbyleague via Youtube, with thanks.