By Chris Martin – NRL.COM
An impressive and physical Wigan outfit downed NRL premiers Cronulla 22-6 at DW Stadium on Monday morning to claim the World Club Championship on the back of a Joe Burgess hat-trick.
It completes a fine double for the UK clubs after Warrington defeated Brisbane a day earlier and snaps a four-year drought for Super League champions in the fixture.
The impressive hat-trick from former Souths and Roosters winger Burgess was the highlight for Wigan but their muscular forward pack gave no ground to the likes of Andrew Fifita, Paul Gallen, Wade Graham and Luke Lewis as they matched Cronulla’s fire in the middle.
The NRL premiers were hurt by the absence of 2016 stars Michael Ennis, Ben Barba and Valentine Holmes and were forced to field two rookie hookers and two rookie wingers but nevertheless looked understandably rusty and produced too many errors to mount serious pressure on the Warriors.
Stand-in fullback Gerard Beale was one of his team’s best and created Cronulla’s only try while Wade Graham was powerful on the left edge and his fellow back-rower Luke Lewis continues to laugh in the face of father time.
Aside from Burgess, Wigan five-eighth George Williams was the star of the show with a fine all-round game and the club’s all-Test back row of Liam Farrell, John Bateman and Sean O’Loughlin laid a fine platform.
Wigan handed Cronulla the first attacking chance of the game with a handling error but it was former Rabbitohs and Roosters winger Joe Burgess who opened the scoring for the Warriors in the fourth minute with a wonderful flying finish in the corner.
A video ref offside call against rookie Sharks winger Jesse Ramien cost Luke Lewis a try shortly after with the veteran back-rower channeling his younger years as a winger with a leaping take of a James Maloney cross-field kick.
Next points instead came again via Warriors flanker Burgess, who was on the end of some good ball movement in broken play to make it 10-0 after 23 minutes.
The officials spoke to both captains about the mounting niggle in the ruck, with one big flare-up around the half hour mark in a continuation of the spirit shown in Warrington’s win over Brisbane one night earlier.
Cronulla looked to have hit back when stand-in winger Luke Capewell jumped for a bomb to his left wing but again the video referee denied Cronulla, who were forced to go to the sheds trailing 10-0.
Despite a Sam Tagataese line break early in the second half it was Wigan who extended their lead in the 45th minute when fullback Morgan Escare scooped up a loose ball near the Cronulla line and swept across-field before linking up with centre Oliver Gildart who brushed through Jack Bird to score.
Cronulla finally got on the board in the 59th minute through Ramien. He was on the end of a perfectly weighted grubber from Gerard Beale, who had a fine all-round game at fullback in the absence of 2016 stars Ben Barba and Valentine Holmes.
It was as close as the Sharks got though, fumbling away further attacking chances with poor handling and play-the-balls while Wigan added an exclamation mark in the dying seconds as Burgess swept on a Williams grubber to earn his hat-trick and a 22-0 win.
Wigan Warriors 22 (Burgess 3, Gildart tries; Escare 3 goals) defeated Cronulla Sharks 6 (Ramien try; Maloney goal) at DW Stadium. Half time: Wigan 10-0. Crowd 21,011.