Well this was a pretty routine victory for
Wigan, who extended their unbeaten run to four matches whilst also
going joint top of the table for the first time this season.
The contest was over by half time with Crusaders
really struggling all afternoon until James Child started to show
them great sympathy it seemed in the final 25 minutes. Now you can
read back at my match reports, which I've been doing on and off
since 2002 and regularly since 2006, and it's very rare that I've
stuck it to the referee but I'm sorry I thought James Child was very poor
today, and I thinking that even before the last 25 minutes.
The fact he exited the field to a chorus of "the referee's a wanker"
from a set of Wigan supporters that had witnessed their side win
48-16, I would suggest, says an awful lot about his
Speaking of the Wigan following, it was huge
again today. 5,037 was the attendance and I reckon 3,500 must have
been Wigan fans. We certainly vastly outnumbered the home support.
Coach Michael Maguire was forced to make two
changes to the side that won at Wakefield on Easter Monday with
Darrell Goulding replacing Joel Tomkins (calf strain) at right
centre whilst Chris Tuson replaced Harrison Hansen (minor knee
ligament) in the back row. He also chose to stick with starting
Brett Finch at Stand Off and using Paul Deacon off the bench.
The pitch was bathed in sunshine but their
was a very cold breeze which left fans who hadn't taken a jacket or
jumper very cold in the shade in the away stand. But they were
warmed up by some excellent tries on the pitch from Wigan.
First try came in the third minute and it was a
Pat Richards trademark special. Brett Finch put the bomb up to the
right corner and Pat plucked it out of air and somehow kept in play
to score. It took some scoring let me tell you and
then his conversion off the touchline was given despite being miles
wide of the target. It was a perfect angle for me and it clearly
missed. Only excuse really is that the touch judges were shielding
their eyes from the sun. Anyway you take any luck you get in sport
and a 6-0 lead very early on look pretty ominous for the Welsh
For the next quarter of an hour or so Wigan kept
trying to repeat the tactic of kicking towards Pat Richards but his
opposite winger Stuart Reardon was beginning to cope really well
with the threat. Crusaders were looking really poor in
attack though but defensively they were not really buckling early
on, however as the half
wore on the gaps did start to appear.
Second Wigan try came on 20 minutes when Sam
Tomkins aimed towards the right and sent Josh Charnley racing in
the corner from 20 metres out. Pat converted to make it 12-0.
Five minutes later Sam scored himself. He was
about 25 metres out and he seemed to be trapped with a wall of
defenders in front of him, but he was having a bit of jig and all
of a sudden he found a gap which saw him going on an arching run to
score right under the posts. Easy conversion made it 18-0.
Another two minutes later, the fourth try came.
Paul Prescott provided the pass and Jeff Lima looked so shocked to
see a huge hole in front of him that allowed him to break clear from fourty
metres out, he drew in full back Clinton Schifcofske, and sent the
supporting Thomas Leuluai under the posts. Another easy conversion
for Pat made it 24-0 after 27 minutes.
The fifth try came on the stroke of half time.
About ten metres out, Sam Tomkins had offloaded to Sean O'Loughlin
who in turn sent Finch through a huge hole and he literally had no defenders
to beat in scoring under the posts. Another easy kick for Pat sent
Wigan into the sheds with a 30-0 lead.
The procession of easy Wigan tries continued
just three minutes into the second half when Leuluai sent Charnley
breaking towards the right corner, but the defence was so soft he
was able to round it off closer to the sticks than it should have
been. Still wasn't an easy kick for Pat but he slotted over his
sixth conversion of the game to make it 36-0.
I was hoping Wigan would keep the opposition
scoreless for the second game in a row but Crusaders finally got on
the scoreboard in the 55th minute with a neat try in the left
corner from Gareth Thomas, but Schifcofske's kick was wide of the
Wigan soon responded on 59 minutes with an
excellent try from Mike McIlorum. 25 metres out he got the ball in
the middle of the field and just darted through a gap to score near
the right corner. Pat's kicking was on fire today as he slotted
another over to make it 42-4.
In the final quarter Wigan really started to
look tired as James Child was giving Crusaders call after call
after call. This allowed Crusaders to claim two more tries in quick
succession. First Michael Witt scored then Thomas, who was now
showing up on their right, broke from 40 metres out to send Stuart
Reardon over but it was a clear knock on for me, if not a forward
pass. It was bang in front of us but despite a referee, a touch
judge and an in goal judge the try was awarded.
Schifcofske had converted both tries and
although the game was dead, with Wigan having a 42-16 lead with 13
minutes to go, Crusaders were now buoyant against the tired
defence. Wigan dug deep though to deny them any further scores and
got reward for that two minutes from time.
reward came in the shape of a second try for Sam Tomkins. He was
about 60 metres out and was running along the defensive line. All
of a sudden he shot through a gap down the left wing and raced all
the way to score our eight and final try of the contest.
Pat was still on the field but the final
conversion was given to Sean O'Loughlin who was celebrating his
250th Wigan appearance today. Only Kris Radlinski, Andy Farrell,
Terry O'Connor and Mick Cassidy have made that many appearances in
the summer era so congratulations to him for that. He will get a
well deserved testimonial when that comes round either next year or
the year after that. Lockers was also raised aloft by the players
as they took the congratulations of the Wigan hoards at full time
but he just about avoided being given the bumps.
Like I said, towards the back end of the game Wigan looked tired
from their Easter exploits and perhaps the Challenge Cup next
weekend is a perfect opportunity to rest a couple of players. Don't
want to disrespect Barrow but I would love to see Dom Crosby and
Joe Mellor for example get a chance next week to show what they
Overall we should be happy with the performances
in the last few weeks. With Harlequins and Hull KR to play next,
both at home, the rest of May now gives us a real shot of possibly
being clear top of the table before June comes round and we launch
into a difficult run of games against Catalan, Castleford, St
Helens, Huddersfield, Leeds and Castleford again in a midweek. For
now I will happily settle for us being joint top of the table
whilst still having that game in hand.