Liam Marshall marked his 150th appearance with a hat-trick as Wigan sealed their return to the Betfred Super League Grand Final for the first time in three years with a blistering 42-12 win over Hull KR at the DW Stadium.
Matt Peet’s men scored three tries in the opening 12 minutes and never looked back as they set up an Old Trafford clash with Catalans Dragons and their former hero Sam Tomkins, who starred in each of Wigan’s previous three Grand Final wins.
Elliot Minchella’s try gave Rovers a glimmer of hope before the break but three tries in quick succession at the start of the second half – bolstered by the unerring boot of Harry Smith who kicked all seven of his conversions – wrapped up Wigan’s win inside an hour.
Willie Peters’ men had arrived at the DW Stadium brimming with confidence after a stellar campaign but the semi-final simply proved a step too far as their flat-footed defensive line was ruthlessly exploited by the hosts.
Marshall marked his 150th appearance by crashing between Tom Opacic and Louis Senior to notch the opener inside three minutes, then Jai Field pursued Smith’s clever kick to slap down his side’s second, a video check over-ruling referee Liam Moore’s suspicions of a knock-on.
Marshall exposed more gaps on the Rovers rights to trot over all too easily for his side’s third and Smith’s precision with the boot meant the visitors were staring at an 18-0 deficit having barely brushed the ball in anger.
Minchella at least gave his side hope before half-time as Rovers capitalised on a careless knock-on by Abbas Miski, Opacic and Matt Parcell combining to give Minchella the chance to get their side on the scoreboard.
Rovers briefly looked galvanised and Matty Storton had a sniff of a second, but it marked their last real chance to establish some sort of contest as familiar failings meant Wigan completed the job within 15 minutes of the restart.
French’s clever cross-field lob found Marshall in space to tap down for his hat-trick, yet another Rovers failure to cope with a high ball sent Toby King over in the opposite corner, then Patrick Mago’s fancy footwork served up Field’s second.
Wigan were simply merciless against a Rovers team folding under the weight of an exhaustive campaign and a seventh try via Abbas Miski began to give the scoreline echoes of Wigan’s 64-6 win over a second-string Rovers side early last month.
They at least avoided that indignity, but it was a sad ending for Rovers and in particular their stalwart Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who had a shocker in his final game before retirement.
Smith finally missed with a cheeky long-range drop-goal attempt as Wigan counted down the minutes and Rovers at least gave their massed ranks of travelling fans something to cheer when Jordan Abdull sent Jez Litten cantering through in the dying stages.