Wigan Warriors hosted Leigh Centurions this Friday night in the battle of the borough. It was the first competitive meeting of the pair, since 2013, and the first Super League game since 2005. Both sides went into the game on the back of wins.
COLD, WET AND WINDY
It wasn’t the greatest of nights to be playing rugby league. It had been pouring it down all day in Wigan and the pitch was soaked before the game kicked off. The rain would continue throughout until around halftime, and it just spoiled the game. It wasn’t a classic, yet entertaining nonetheless.
In the second half, when the rain stopped a little, and the surface dried up a bit, Wigan started to take control and you could see them pick their attack up. There were still some poor handling, which, with the weather, was to be expected. I lost count of the number of knock-ons during the game, it got ridiculous.
Leigh are a side who like to throw the ball about, and they couldn’t risk that game tonight, so it affected their attack dramatically. It was a big night for the forward pack of both sides as it was their job to make the yards and try and get their team going. The kicking game of Wigan was key, Leuluai and Williams used the conditions perfectly.
SCRAPPY FIRST HALF
Wigan would get over early in the half after Williams placed a superb kick through, and Lewis Tierney won the chase and found Gelling who would go under the sticks to finish off a great opening try. Wigan led 6-0 after just seven minutes. This was to be the only points of the half as Leigh never got close enough to the line to threaten Wigan in the opening 40 minutes.
The first half seemed to drag on. There wasn’t much action to report, as it was just a half of poor handling and some decent defence. It was pouring it down, and both attacks weren’t great, they struggled to get anywhere near a score throughout the half. However, the difference was the kicking game of Wigan, which would be the key to the first try of the game.
There was a bit of biff in the half, but nothing serious, it just seemed to fire both sets of fans up a bit. Wigan defended well, as did Leigh. It showed how well they were defending as when Wigan tried to extend their lead, they opted for the two-points. However, after a failed attempt at goal from Escaré, Wigan would then miss two attempts at a drop-goal, as the halftime hooter went, with Wigan leading 6-0.
The conditions improved a little in the second half, and as they pitch became a bit drier, Wigan started to control the game and step up their attack. George Williams had another superb game tonight and his solo effort in the 46th minute was a joy to watch. He just darted in and out of the Leigh defence to create his own gap, to extend Wigan’s lead to 12-0.
Wigan was well in control of the game at this point, and won the game in the 66th minute, after former Warrior, Gareth Hock went too high on Frank-Paul and Escaré would slot over a penalty goal, as Wigan led 14-0 with just 15 minutes to go. At this point, you sensed that was enough for Wigan and the big thing now was to not concede, and really get one over on their local rivals. Leigh showed real fight and spirit throughout the game, and deserve credit for making it such a tough task for the Warriors.
A few minutes later, Gelling was in for his second try of the game, with another superb try. Once again, Williams burst through the Leigh defence, jinxed inside and saw Gelling out wide, he placed a perfect kick out wide, and Gelling would stroll over to put Wigan 20-0 up. Leigh had chances in the last 10 minutes, but Wigan stayed switched on and stood strong to hold them out, and finish up 20-0 winners against their local rivals.
THE WIN CAME AT A COST
It was another good win for Wigan, without playing near their best. However, this week the win came at a real cost. They would lose three players to what seemed bad injuries. In the 29th minute, Joe Burgess had to be helped from the field, after being unable to put any pressure on his right ankle, it didn’t look good for the young winger.
In the act of setting up the first try of the game, Lewis Tierney hurt his ankle, and would get it strapped up. He struggled through the rest of the first half, and you could see how much pain he was in, it seemed very unlikely that he’d return. As the second half started, there was no Tierney, as Gelling would go on the wing.
Then, with 20 minutes to go in the game, Ryan Sutton clashed heads with Dawson and had to leave the field for a concussion test, and was also bleeding from the face. It was revealed after the game that it was an eye injury and all three players was off to the hospital for further tests. With Warrington away coming up next for Wigan, I’ll be surprised if any of the three players feature.
Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:
“It was really good against a really good team, I’m really happy with the 20 points, but we always looked in control with our defence.
“They didn’t really bother us, the conditions helped that but we spoke all week about that, we won our last game.
“This is a big one, the players all week said how they’ve been looking forward to this one, and to stop them scoring with the quality they’ve got is great for me.
“George Williams played outstandingly well today and Tommy Leuluai was very good today, both halves were very good.”
Leigh Centurions head coach Neil Jukes:
“We hung in there with our defence but we put too much pressure on ourselves with the ball, we didn’t challenge them, and when we did get field position we dropped it on play one or play two.
“We were off our game management, making sure we did the simple things right to make sure we get field position, but we didn’t do that for long enough periods and Wigan kept it simple.
“We spoke about playing with control, playing with emotion and intensity but control, but we didn’t have that control in our play.
“We’d have had to play very well to come here and we were nowhere near that and we got what we deserved.”
IN THE SHEDS
While it was a good night on the scoreboard for Wigan, it was a bad one on the injury front.
During the game, Wigan lost Joe Burgess (ankle), Lewis Tierney (ankle) and Ryan Sutton (eye), none of which returned and coach Shaun Wane confirmed all three would go to hospital following the game.
Wigan also lost Frank-Paul for a short while, as he went off for a concussion test, but later returned.
There were a few moments of biff on the pitch, but nothing serious. Anthony Gelling would run the risk of a sin-bin in the second half, by kicking a second ball on the pitch to slow the game down. I can’t see the RFL making much of it though.
Wigan Warriors: (6) 20
Tries: Gelling 2, Williams
Goals: Escaré 4/5
Leigh Centurions: (0) 0
Wigan Warriors: Escaré; Tierney, Gelling, Burgess, Marshall; Williams, Leuluai; Nuuausala, Powell, Flower, Isa, Farrell, O’Loughlin
Replacements: J.Tomkins, Clubb, Tautai, Sutton
Leigh Centurions: Brown; Dawson, Crooks, Tonga, Naughton; Reynolds, Drinkwater; Hock, Higham, Green, Tickle, Vea, Hansen
Replacements: Pelissier, Hopkins, Acton, Burr
Referee: Robert Hicks
Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan
Date/Time: Friday 3rd March 2017 – 20:00pm GMT