Wigan overcame stern resistance from Huddersfield to secure a 19-6 victory in the last match of the regular Super League season at Headingley to claim the League Leaders’ Shield for the first time since 2012.
It was a first trophy for coach Adrian Lam as the Warriors denied arch rivals St Helens to earn a week off and a home tie in the play-off semi-finals in a fortnight’s time.
It was a fitting way for long-serving scrum-half Thomas Leuluai to mark his 300th game for the club as Wigan stepped up their bid for the big prize.
But they were forced to do it the hard way after Huddersfield, who handed a debut to Ireland international forward Ronan Michael, went toe-to-toe with them for an hour and kept a tight rein on dangerous full-back Bevan French.
The Giants’ gallant effort was ultimately in vain as they ended the season with five straight defeats under caretaker coach Luke Robinson.
Despite being down to his last 18 fit players, however, Robinson will keep his team on stand-by for the play-offs in the event that any of the six teams to finish above them are struck down by Covid.
There was little hint of the struggle ahead when Wigan got off to the ideal start, with hooker Sam Powell scoring a trademark try from a dummy-half run close to the line after only four minutes.
Zak Hardaker’s goal made it 6-0 but the Warriors had plenty of defence to do keep their lead as the Giants gave as good as they got.
Lam’s men missed a gilt-edged opportunity to extend their lead after 24 minutes when winger Jake Bibby dropped French’s pass with the line open and it soon began to look a costly one when Huddersfield struck three minutes before the break.
The normally reliable French fumbled a kick from Giants captain Aidan Sezer under the challenge of Kyle Trout to present Sam Wood with the gift of a try and Sezer’s conversion levelled the scores.
Wigan continued to look the more likely winners but they missed another chance after 49 minutes when England centre Oliver Gildart got to the line but lost the ball in Jermaine McGillvary’s tackle.
As the pressure built on the Huddersfield defence, it eventually cracked with two tries in four minutes.
Stand-off Jackson Hastings forced his way over from dummy half after Powell had been tackled short and centre and then put in superbly-judged grubber kick for centre Hardaker to touch down.
Hardaker added both conversions to put daylight between the teams and Hastings made sure with a drop goal four minutes from the end.