Jack Walker reviews Wigan Warriors’ 32-10 victory over Toronto Wolfpack, with the score line certainly telling a different story to the events that unfolded.
|20th||Try Matthew Russell (Toronto)||Toronto 4-0|
|27th||Try Harry Smith (Wigan)||Tied 4-4|
|33rd||Try Bevan French (Wigan)||Wigan 8-4|
|34th||Goal Zak Hardaker (Wigan)||Wigan 10-4|
|48th||Try Bodene Thompson (Toronto)||Wigan 10-8|
|49th||Goal Blake Wallace (Toronto)||Tied 10-10|
|58th||Try Joe Burgess (Wigan)||Wigan 14-10|
|60th||Goal Zak Hardaker (Wigan)||Wigan 16-10|
|64th||Try Bevan French (Wigan)||Wigan 20-10|
|65th||Goal Zak Hardaker (Wigan)||Wigan 22-10|
|75th||Try Liam Farrell (Wigan)||Wigan 26-10|
|78th||Try Liam Farrell (Wigan)||Wigan 30-10|
|79th||Goal Zak Hardaker (Wigan)||Wigan 32-10|
Bevan French stole the show as Wigan survived a stern test from Super League newcomers Toronto Wolfpack.
The Australian full-back produced two moments of sheer quality to calve the travelling defence open and land heavy blows in a game that ebbed and flowed right from the first whistle.
Despite missing a handful of key players through injury – and Sonny Bill Williams who is in New Zealand awaiting the birth of his and his wife’s fourth child – it was Toronto who started the stronger.
On the last play, captain Josh McCrone sent a kick high in the air which Liam Marshall was unable to collect, leaving Matty Russell to launch himself over in the corner for the game’s opening try.
Toronto were in confident mood, but that was as good as it got for them in the first half. Wigan, by far the better side on paper, finally found their groove just shy of the half-hour mark.
Under heavy pressure, the Wolfpack defended their line for all their worth, but Willie Isa’s quick hands and Harry Smith’s clever dummy saw the youngster level the scores.
Both sides failed to convert their maiden tries of the evening, but Wigan were in no mood to let that weigh them down and French showed why he is one of the most feared players in the division just six minutes later.
The Toronto backline faced three consecutive Wigan sets and it was Isa’s fast hands that again unlocked the door – feeding French on the inside who ran in behind the sticks to give the hosts the lead for the first time in the match.
But it wasn’t all one-way traffic as Toronto, who had lost their previous two matches this season, came out flying in the second forty, just as they did in the first.
Attacking the Warriors’ tryline, there was little zip in their play until Gareth O’Brien’s explosive turn of pace beat two defenders before the scrum-half fed Bodene Thompson just inches before the line to help draw the away side back level.
Alas, mistakes were to cost them dear. McCrone’s kick fell straight into the arms of French in the goal-zone and the Aussie then sped to take the twenty-metre restart before offloading to summer-signing Jackson Hastings who played the ball further left to Joe Burgess who put on the afterburners – running all of fifty metres before crossing the whitewash.
And, after that, the floodgates opened. First, French sold another dummy to sail through the Wolfpack defence and claim his second of the night, before Liam Farrell matched his teammate with a brace of his own.
With extra space to work run into after Hakim Miloudi was sin-binned for a high tackled on Wigan captain Shaun O’Loughlin, Hastings offloaded the ball on a plate for Farrell’s first and, just minutes later, the same combination had equal effect as the loose forward cruised under the sticks to rub salt in the Toronto wounds.
In the end, then, a harsh scoreline for the Wolfpack but most certainly a game from which they can take immense pride. For Wigan, it’s another two points on the board but everyone at the club will know that they will need to play far better if they are to challenge for silverware in 2020.
The game was finely poised at 10-10 with little over a quarter of proceedings left to play when McCrone’s kick cost his side dearly. The visitors went from sustaining a high-pressure attack to finding themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard in a matter of seconds as Wigan raced down the other end without needing to use even one of the seven tackles that they had in reserve. This is where the game was ultimately won and lost – long before Miloudi’s yellow.
Wigan Warriors 32
Tries: Smith, French (2), Burgess, Farrell (2)
Goals: Hardaker (4)
Drop Goals: n/a
Toronto Wolfpack 10
Tries: Russell, Thompson
Drop Goals: n/a
Wigan Warriors 21-man squad: Hardaker, Marshall, Hankinson, Burgess, French, Leuluai, Clubb, Isa, Farrell, O’Loughlin, Greenwood, Smithies, Partington, Bullock, Byrne, Clark, Bibby, Smith, Havard, Hastings, Bourouh.
Toronto Wolfpack 21-man squad: O’Brien, Russell, Leutele, Kay, Mellor, McCrone, Sidlow, Ackers, Mullally, Dixon, Thompson, Wilkin, Springer, Olbison, Wallace, Singleton, Wheeler, Cunningham, Miloudi.