Warriors left weeping at the Willows THIS was billed as the game Wigan
dare not lose but nobody appeared to have told the Warriors.
a win to at best maintain their interest in the title race, but that dream
is now in tatters as they tamely surrendered to plucky Salford.
It was 15 months ago at the Willows that Wigan's Wembley march came to
an abrupt end and the memory of that occasion appeared to haunt the
Warriors as they produced their worst 80 minutes display of the season.
The Reds defence appeared to shackle the Warriors attackers, who all
too often turned the ball inside and failed to make much headway upfront.
Former Central Park favourite Andy Gregory had his side's defence well
organised and in contrast to Wigan, their forwards easily made yards.
Another former Wigan star Steve Blakeley ran the show for the Reds
while his opposite half-backs were largely ineffective as Wigan lacked the
necessary drive and invention.
Coach Eric Hughes conceded it was the end as far as Wigan's title
aspirations were concerned.
"We said we needed to go to Australia in June with an unbeaten run and
we have now lost four games. It leaves us with a mountain to climb but we
must try to improve on a weekly basis.
"Salford closed us down and defended very well. They controlled the
ball better than we did. We gave too much away and their kicking game was
much better than ours. I was disappointed in our game. I never felt we
would break them down."
The Reds had most of the territorial advantage in an error-strewn
first-half but could only manage one try in the eighth minute. They broke
from half-way and although Scott Naylor was held just short of the line,
the ball was whipped out wide for Darren Rogers to cross at the corner.
Wigan came back and scored their only try of the game with a neat move
from a scrum 10 yards from the line which caught out the Reds' defence for
Darryl Cardiss to nip in at the corner.
Three minutes after the break and the Reds crossed for the crucial
score of the game when Blakeley kicked ahead, Rogers added another boot
and Ian Watson dived over for a try under the posts which Blakeley goaled.
Frustration mounted in the Wigan camp and Blakeley obliged with a
couple of penalties, while Wigan's only chance came 10 minutes from time
when video evidence had to be called upon to show that Andy Johnson was
just inches short of grounding the ball.
Lee Hansen made his debut by playing the last 30 minutes of the match
and showed much more spirit in that short time than many of his colleagues
had displayed in 80 minutes.
Wembley weekend gives Wigan a two week break before their next match
and Hughes needs that time to work on his side if they are to salvage
anything from what has so far been a disastrous season.
Wigan: Robinson, Johnson, Connolly, Radlinski, Cardiss, Smith,
Murdock, O'Connor, Cassidy, Holgate, Haughton, Tallec, Farrell. Subs:
Murray, Cowie (for Holgate 24), Hansen (for O'Connor 50), Wright (for
Murdock 51), Murdock (for Cassidy 64), O'Connor (for Cowie 73).