Wigan Warriors' Bevan French crosses the whitewash during his side's impressive victory over Hull FC
- Wigan Warriors 29-2 Hull FC
Consummately professional, ruthlessly efficient and clinical with every chance that came their way, Wigan Warriors clinched a place in next Friday’s Grand Final to encourage hopes of a glorious last hurrah for their retiring captain, Sean O’Loughlin.
The 37-year-old forward, a born and bred Wiganer and brother in-law to Andy Farrell, will hang up his boots at the end of the current campaign, bringing down the curtain on one of the finest careers in Super League history.
Victory over St Helens or Catalans Dragons, who meet on Friday in the second play-off semi-final, in next week’s title decider at Hull FC’s KCOM Stadium would be a fairytale farewell for O’Loughlin.
O’Loughlin, a one-club man now in his 19th season at his hometown team, will bid to bow out with a fifth Grand Final success to his name. For Hull FC, outscored by five tries to nil, it was a disappointing end to this most extraordinary of Super League seasons.
The regular season was recently ended a week early due to an increasing number of Covid-19 outbreaks and the play-off places were extended from the top four to the top six.
Hull finished sixth and so sneaked into the end-of-season lottery via the back door, beating Warrington Wolves on their own turf last week to set up a trip to the DW Stadium.
Hull, who have been under the guidance of interim head coach, Andy Last, after sacking Lee Radford in March, overflowed with confidence during the early exchanges.
A penalty from Marc Sneyd put them ahead, no doubt lifting the spirit of Hull owner, Adam Pearson, who watched the game from his hospital bed on a iPad as he recovers from coronavirus.
When Hull centre, Josh Griffin, was penalised by referee, Chris Kendall, for sarcastically patting Oliver Partington on the head, Wigan advanced upfield. They created the field position for Joe Burgess, who is joining Salford next season, finished off a neat handling move in the left corner in the 27th minute.
Six minutes later, Burgess turned provider with a neat kick that invited scrum-half, Harry Smith, to touch down for a second home try.
With O’Loughlin having been introduced off the bench, Wigan began to motor and, five minutes after the interval, Zak Hardaker collected possession and raced past a leaden-footed Hull defence to score clinically.
Wigan’s dominance was underlined in the closing stages when Jake Bibby, the winger, added a fourth home try in the right corner before Bevan French dived over to complete the scoring.