Wigan Warriors 25 Wakefield Trinity 12: Jackson Hastings runs rings around Trinity
STRUGGLING Wakefield Trinity suffered another defeat tonight and were forced to chase shadows for large parts of it as Wigan Warriors’ Jackson Hastings put on an attacking masterclass.
The Great Britain scrum-half delivered another stunning display in his new-found position of full-back to ruthlessly unpick Chris Chester’s side who have now lost four of their last five games.
The one game the West Yorkshire club had won in that run was, ironically, against Wigan with a 14-6 success last month.
But Australian Hastings, of course, was absent then, on international duty with the Combined Nations All Stars as they defeated England.
If the World Cup does go ahead this autumn - and if England coach Shaun Wane continues to see him as surplus to requirements - it will be hoped the former Man of Steel can find someone to give him a game; there are not many better talents around when the 25-year-old is in this sort of mood.
Trinity certainly could not cope with him as he set about creating all three of right winger Jake Bibby’s hat-trick of tries and then emerged on the left edge, too, to send Liam Marshall over with another effortless cut-out pass.
There is plenty of debate as to whether Wigan should continue playing the former Man of Steel out of position at full-back.
However, in the absence of Bevan French and Zak Hardaker he has slotted in admirably in recent weeks and, on this evidence, it is easy to see why Adrian Lam is more than happy with him operating there.
Every time he entered the line, Hastings posed Wakefield problems.
The first came courtesy of a perfectly-weighted grubber he threaded through after attracting defenders into him to create space behind.
It had taken 18 minutes for Wakefield’s defence to be breached, though, and Chester would have been pleased with the way his side had initially taken the contest to their opponents espeically as Innes Senior and James Batchelor had efforts ruled out.
Nevertheless, too often Trinity lacked their own guile and cutting edge when in prime attacking position, the absence of England loose forward Joe Westerman proving problematic.
Twice they were caught in possession on the last tackle and, when they did make a breakthrough, Hastings was on hand to show his defensive quality, making a try-saving tackle on Batchelor, one of Trinity’s better performers.
It was the replacement back-row who did finally get them off the mark with a rare attack in the second period but it did not come until as late as the 70th minute.
That said, Wakefield did keep plugging away and Jay Pitts added another try after Mason Lino - who converted both - attacked the line to get Wigan on the back foot.
Prop David Fifita caused the hosts some issues in the first period, Kelepi Tanginoa was his usual industrious self and Jacob Miller offered some glimpses with the ball in hand.
England centre Reece Lyne also marked his 200th game for the club his side never truly looked likely of securing a first win at Wigan since 2017.
When they did force some pressure, they let their opponents off the hook, illustrated when Ryan Hampshire and Yusuf Aydin somehow conspired to drop a goalline drop-out between them.
Miller’s long pass did get Joe Arundel away at one point and Miller’s high kick did see Hastings make a rare error, spilling the ball under little pressure.
However, his side held out and he would soon atone.
It remained tight, though, until Hastings stepped up to produce a brilliant long pass for Bibby to score his second try in the 37th minute.
With Harry Smith missing both conversion attempts it remained at just 8-0 but Hastings slotted a long-range drop-goal on the interval hooter to squeeze Trinity a little further.
When Hastings - who heads home to the NRL with Wests Tigers in 2022 - conjured up another sublime pass for Bibby’s treble in the 46th minute, it was game over.
Joe Shorrocks added another try soon after following Liam Farrell’s hopeful kick inside and it became damage control for Trinity, especially after Marshall’s effort.
They did well to force that late rally, Liam Kay ushering Batchelor over from close range and Pitts doing well, too.
But, things do not get any easier; they head to leaders Catalans Dragons next Thursday.
Wigan Warriors: Hastings; Bibby, Isa, Gildart, Marshall; Leuluai, Smith; Singleton, Powell, Clubb, Pearce-Paul, Farrell, Partington. Substitutes: Clark, Havard, Shorrocks, O’Neill.
Wakefield Trinity: Hampshire; Kershaw, Lyne, Arundel, Senior; Miller, Lino; Fifita, Walker, Tanginoa, Pitts Ashurst, Battye. Substitutes: Kay, Batchelor, Aydin, Green.
Referee: Tom Grant (Leeds)