Aussie French helps Wigan into ESL decider

Ian Laybourn
·3-min read

Former England captain Sean O'Loughlin will get the chance to bring down the curtain on his glorious career in the Super League decider after Wigan eased their way past Hull 29-2 in the first semi-final.

The Warriors skipper, in only his seventh match of 2020, played his part as they secured a record-equalling 11th grand final appearance.

O'Loughlin will play a 459th game for his home-town club in next week's season-ender at KCOM Stadium against the winners of Friday's second semi between St Helens and Catalans Dragons.

"I'm overwhelmed that we've made the Grand Final," the 38-year-old, who was given guard of honour as he left DW Stadium for the final time, told Sky Sports.

"I was honoured I got the opportunity to play one more game here and it would be special if we won next week.

"There's not going to be an opportunity to celebrate with the fans but just to win one more trophy would make it special for this group of boys. It's been a strange year but I feel it's brought us together."

On the back of four straight wins, Hull put former Parramatta Eels fullback Bevan French under all sorts of pressure early through a clever kicking game.

The game appeared to turn on the decision of referee Chris Kendall to penalise Hull centre Josh Griffin for patting prop Oliver Partington on the head, forcing to forfeit a promising attacking position.

Wigan suddenly found a purple patch to run in two tries in seven minutes to seize control.

Winger Joe Burgess went over following a strong run from centre Zak Hardaker and then put in a grubber kick for halfback Harry Smith to touch down.

Hardaker kicked both conversions and Smith slotted over a field goal to make it 13-2.

The game slipped further away from Hull in the 44th minute when O'Loughlin and experienced Kiwi international Thomas Leulaui combined to find French and his inside pass got Hardaker racing away for Wigan's third try.

Hull's last chance to get back into the game disappeared when French pulled off a brilliant try-saving tackle to deny Marc Sneyd in full flight and Wigan wrapped up the victory with two further tries in the last six minutes.

French put winger Jake Bibby over in the corner and then the man from Tingha in New South Wales crossed on 78 minutes for the 13th try of his first full Super League campaign.

"I feel playing in a Grand Final next week is the ideal way for Sean O'LoughIin to go out and we'll work really hard to make sure he goes out a winner," Wigan coach Adrian Lam said.

"You can't underestimate what's he done for our sport. I'm sure he's got some young children who look up to him and play rugby league for that reason."