The newly crowned World Champions made a late, dramatic comeback to seal a 28-26 victory down at the Select Security Stadium this Friday night. After all the drama off the field in the 24 hours previous, Wigan got the job done on the field.
IT’S ON, IT’S OFF, IT’S ON AGAIN
What a farce Wigan Warriors made our game look on Thursday evening. It came out at around 18:30pm that the game was to be postponed due to the DW pitch not being able to host two games over the weekend, as Wigan Athletic was set to play on it, on the Saturday, just 24 hours after the rugby. It was a decision made after Wigan Warriors owner Ian Lenagan had a conversation with Wigan Athletic owner, David Sharpe. It seemed to be a decision that not only frustrated Wigan and Widnes fans, but it came as a surprise to Widnes, as they were kept in the dark throughout.
Amid all the backlash, the RFL made a statement stating that they were to review the situation and decide whether or not Wigan were in breach of the operational rules by calling it off. This was not only an inconvenience to players, coaches, fans and staff alike. But it was a game that was scheduled to be shown live on Sky Sports, so they had to change their schedule and destination.
Then, early Friday morning it was reported that the game had been reversed and both clubs had come to an agreement for the game to be played at Widnes. The game would have the same kick-off time, but would no longer be shown on Sky Sports. The club put tickets down to a basic price of £10 for fans, which was a great gesture. This also meant that when Widnes where to host Wigan later in the season, that will now be a Wigan home game. All in all, it was a farce and give some real poor publicity to the sport and Wigan Warriors.
SLOPPY, FATIGUED AND NO DISCIPLINE
It wasn’t the greatest of first halves for Wigan. They struggled to battle with Widnes and you could see that they were feeling the effects of the World Club Champions win just five days ago. They had a couple days off and have only trained a couple of days, so it was always going to be tough for Shaun Wane’s men. It was in fact Wigan who scored the game’s first try, when Thomas Leuluai would barge his way over to get things going. Wigan led 6-0 after 15 minutes.
From then on, Wigan continued to make countless errors and gave away some soft penalties which give Widnes some good field position. Widnes would score back-to-back tries through Lloyd White and Danny Craven to lead 12-6. Then came a moment of magic from Morgan Escaré. The full-back chipped the ball over the Widnes defence, caught his own kick and found Oliver Gildart who darted inside and would go under the sticks for what was definitely a try of the season contender.
Just before halftime, Widnes would take the lead when Tom Armstrong would pounce on a loose ball for an easy try. Wigan would trail 18-12 at halftime, and could think themselves lucky. They were never really in the game and conceded some sloppy tries. It just shows the class of the team that they did manage to somehow score 12 points in the half. But they needed a big improvement in the second half if they were to win this one.
GRIT, DETERMINATION AND PASSION
Wigan had a lot of work to do in the second half, and it became a bigger job in the 44th minute when Stefan Marsh extended the Vikings lead to 22-12. Wigan’s poor discipline continued as they gave away back-to-back penalties, and Widnes took advantage by kicking for goal both times to extend their lead further to 26-12 with 25 minutes to go. The game seemed all but over for the Warriors.
I’ll be honest, sat in the stands, down by 14 points with 20 minutes to go, I gave Wigan no chance. I just didn’t feel like they had it in them, the way the game was going. However, was I to be proved wrong. Wigan would go on to score four tries in the final 20 minutes through Oliver Gildart, Lewis Tierney and two from Joe Burgess to seal an unbelievable and dramatic 28-26 victory over Widnes. It could’ve been more if Escaré and Powell had their kicking boots on, as they missed four between them on the night.
The final 20 minutes of that game should be used by Shaun Wane to show the players that they can win in any situation. It was just utter madness. It seemed to come from nowhere, and once Tierney went over for the second try of the four, the Wigan fans started to sense something. It was a real show of desire from the Wigan lads to win that game, and the 2,000+ Warriors fans deserved it for the fantastic effort they made to make the game following all the troubles.
GREAT SIGNS EARLY ON FOR WIGAN
We’re only two games into the new season, but Wigan look a good side. As well as beating Cronulla in the WCC, they’ve played two away games in the league and wont them both, scoring 54 points in the process. That is something they struggled to do last season. Joe Burgess has comeback with a point to prove and he’s already scored six tries this season in the first three games. Escaré has settled in so well already clicking with his halves, and being involved in key moments, while Williams and Leuluai have begun their partnership in a great way.
It’s been a real promising start for the Warriors, winning three from three and already lifting a trophy, it can only set them up for the season. The win at Widnes on Friday was one of a champion side. There aren’t many sides in Super League who could make that comeback, after being involved in such a battle five days previous. The effort that was put in, right to the final hooter was to be admired.
Next week they have a home game to local rivals, Leigh Centurions. With them being expected to get the job done, they will then go into a huge game away at Warrington having won three from three in the league. The most encouraging thing for Shaun Wane at the minute is that he’s been able to name a very similar squad for each game this season, which can only be a bonus. Especially after the injury-hit season they had in 2016. But if Wigan continue the way they are, they’ll be a very tough side to beat.
Widnes Vikings head coach Denis Betts:
“It is a bizarre situation. We came in this morning not knowing what was going on. “The game was put on at 11 o’clock and the club has done fantastically well at such short notice.
“But I couldn’t control it. I don’t waste energy thinking about it. I had nothing to do with it.”
Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:
“I am the coach of Wigan and we coached the team to get two points. That is all I am concerned about.
“I got told the game was off and that was it. All the players got a message – make sure you go to bed, look after yourself, something might be sorted.
“I’m very happy with the mentality shown by the players because this is a tough place to come. To get two points here is a great effort.”
IN THE SHEDS
There was only one injury to report following Friday nights clash down at Widnes, and that was for Wigan Warriors youngster, Jake Shorrocks. He’d not been on the field for long, and he was off with what looked to be a bad injury to his knee. Following the game, Wigan coach, Shaun Wane confirmed that he’d suffered a knee injury and will go for a scan over the weekend. There were no incidents in the game that I feel the RFL will look back on this week.
Widnes Vikings: (18) 26
Tries: White, Craven, Armstrong, Marsh
Goals: Hanbury 5/6
Wigan Warriors: (12) 28
Tries: Leuluai, Gildart 2, Burgess 2, Tierney
Goals: Escaré 2/5, Powell 0/1
Widnes Vikings: Hanbury; Thompson, Hanbury, Runciman, Marsh; Bridge, Craven; Dudson, White, Buchanan, Whitley, Houston, Leuluai.
Replacements: Heremaia, Cahill, Olbison, Burke.
Wigan Warriors: Escaré, Tierney, Gelling, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Leuluai; Nuuausala, Powell, Flower, Isa, Powell, O’Loughlin.
Replacements: Tomkins, Clubb, Tautai, Shorrocks.
Referee: James Child
Venue: Select Security Stadium, Widnes
Date/Time: Friday 24th February 2017 – 20:00pm GMT