Wigan Warriors came into the 2020 season hoping to improve after a disapointing end to the 2019 season.
They lost against Salford Red Devils at home to miss out on a spot in the Grand Final, and they finished 16 points behind leaders St Helens.
To try and bridge that gap, they brought in a lot of talent including Man of Steel Jackson Hastings, Salford back Jake Bibby and England international George Burgess.They also lost George Williams to Canberra Raiders, Dan Sarginson to Salford and Tom Davies to Catalans Dragons.
Opening the season
Wigan would open the 2020 season at home to Warrington Wolves. Tries from Bevan French, Zak Hardaker and a penalty try saw the Warriors past 12-man Warrington.
However, they were brought back down to earth a week later after a 16-12 defeat at Castleford Tigers.
It did not take long for Wigan to return to winning ways, after a 32-10 victory over Toronto Wolfpack, although this result was wiped when Toronto withdrew from the Super League season.
They would make the most of home advantage once again 10 days later, as tries from French, Dom Manfredi, Hastings and Willie Isa got them past Hull FC.
A week later, they moved top of the Super League for the first time, as they ended Huddersfield Giants’ unbeaten start to the season. A hat-trick from Liam Marshall, and other tries from Isa, Sam Powell, Manfredi, Ollie Partington and Burgess sealed the win.
The Warriors made it three straight victories a week later, as they got past Hull KR at the DW Stadium. Hastings got two tries, with Liam Farrell, Powell and Marshall completing the scoring.
That run came to an end in Salford a week later, as a late try saw them go down 14-12.This would be Wigan’s last match before the sport was suspended as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Restart and COVID changes
The Warriors had to wait almost five months to play again. They eventually returned behind closed doors at Headingley against Wakefield Trinity. They were pushed hard, and a Harry Smith drop goal got them over the line.
A week later, they looked back to their best with a comfortable victory over Leeds Rhinos at the Totally Wicked Stadium. Two tries from French, and others from Farrell, Manfredi and Bibby sealed the win.
They had a late change of opponent in Warrington a week later. They were due to play Catalans Dragons, but due to positive tests in the Dragons camp, the match was unable to go ahead. Instead, they faced Castleford, and got revenge for that defeat earlier in the season, with a 30-22 win. Powell, Joe Burgess, Farrell, Joe Bullock and Ben Flower earned that win.
Next up was Hull KR, who were in need of a victory to help them get off the bottom of the table. They got it, thanks to a 34-18 victory. To make matters worse for Wigan, the Super League had decided to change the table to go by win percentage rather than points. Meaning they dropped to fourth in the table.
Wigan were then the first side to visit the south of France since March when they travelled to face the Dragons in front of 5,000 fans. The Warriors suitably spoiled the party, with Joe Burgess scoring twice and other tries from Oliver Gildart, French and Powell completing a 28-12 victory.
The Challenge Cup was then back in the spotlight, with the Warriors drawn against Hull FC for a spot in the semi-finals.Two tries each from Farrell and French as well as others from Powell, Burgess and Gildart completed a 36-4 demolition job.
Less than a week later, they were back in Super League action against Wakefield, this time it was a bit more comfortable than when they met in August.Two tries from French and others from Hastings, Powell and Gildart completing 28-16 victory.
Short turnovers and Challenge Cup disappointment
The short turnovers then became a factor with Wigan playing again just four days later against bitter rivals St Helens. Their younger team was no match for Saints’ more senior squad, and they went down 42-0.
The reason why they went with a rotated team for that clash was because they had their Challenge Cup semi-final against Leeds the following Saturday.However, they couldn’t adapt to the wet conditions and went down 26-12 in St Helens.
It was important Wigan returned to winning ways a week later, and they did with a 18-14 win against Warrington Wolves. Tries from Joe Greenwood, Hardaker and Farrell earned the important win.
They had a rest a week later, as another game against Catalans fell by the wayside. This time, it was Wigan who had an outbreak of coronavirus at the club.
Eventually, they were cleared to return to action two weeks later, and they came back in style, thrashing Salford. A hat-trick from French, two tries each for Powell, Farrell and Gildart and another for Hastings sealed a 58-12 victory.
Top of the table
A week later, they faced St Helens in what would become a decider for the League Leaders Shield.Despite conceding the first try, Wigan came back and got a well-earned victory. Tries from Bibby, French, Thomas Leuluai and Hastings earned that win.
That win proved important as a week later, the Super League decided to end the season early as a result of rising coronavirus cases across several clubs.They would play one more match against Huddersfield Giants, which if they won, they would win the League Leaders Shield, and defeat would leave them third.But tries from Powell, Hastings and Hardaker ensured Wigan would finish top for the first time since 2012.
To the playoffs, and Wigan showed what they were made of, as they got past Hull FC 29-2 at the DW Stadium.Tries from Joe Burgess, Smith, Hardaker, Bibby and French got them to the Grand Final.
Grand Final heartache
To the final itself, and it ended in heartbreak against the Saints. A Bibby try had the Warriors 4-2 ahead, and with 90 seconds on the clock, Wigan got a penalty 40m out.
Hardaker pulled the penalty short, and with the last attack of the game, Jack Welsby scored for Saints to win them the title.It was a really disappointing way to end what had been a really consistent season for Wigan, and they will hope to go one better in 2021.
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