Just as I start to write this I notice the
official club twitter state that this contest "certainly wetted
the appetite for the return of Super League!" - Now it wasn't a
poor game I didn't think but it was hardly a game that "wetted the
appetite", unless defence dominated stuff is what your looking for
week in, week out? That's the thing with following or reading any
official stuff, they will always spin a negative into a positive,
that's their job! Stick with me, I can tell it like I see it! :)
For me I'm a little disappointed that we didn't
kick on in this game considering it was our last big run out of the
pre season. The number of substitutes were reduced but this game
lacked the intensity of a normal Super League game. I mean I didn't
see a step up in intensity from the Hull KR game, in fact it was
almost a carbon copy. A pretty tight defensive battle for 60
minutes before Wigan scored two tries to seal the result. Salford
though gave a very good account of themselves, and a try four
minutes into stoppage time saw the final score offer a much fairer
reflection of the game.
The biggest issue I see us having off the back of pre season
evidence is still the lack of any last tackle kicking game. We saw
very little from Brett Finch and Thomas Leuluai tonight and I still
think Tommy should not be in the Scrum Half role. I mean Salford
bombed and bombed and bombed Sam Tomkins all night and to be honest
we were pretty fortunate he was outstanding in dealing with those
kicks time and time again. Our kicks were pretty garbage in
comparison and I'm not sure who the answer is. Finch never seems to
take control in that department, whilst you can look back at my
match reports for the past five seasons and you'll see my constant
moans which are enough to tell you Leuluai isn't the answer either.
I might just be fussing on that too early but I'll be keeping an
eye on it for sure because that could be the difference this year
between trophies and being runners up, especially now Paul Deacon
On the positive side we looked very solid again. Salford barely
made a clean break on us all night. We were very sloppy in
possession during the first half of the second half I felt but
defensively we look like we will once again be difficult to break
down. I still question mark whether we'll get enough out of Mike
McIlorum if he is to be an 80 minute hooker. The lack of
alternative in that position could be an issue, but time will tell.
Now this stadium was best described by my mate Dan on our
arrival. "It's a bit of a bike shed", that sums it up really. It
has one big stand which houses the corporate facilities, tv gantry,
reception area etc etc, but the other three stands (two end
terraces and one seated along sideline) are very bog standard. I
was reading a tweet which read "It's as if they built one stand,
then realised they'd blown 90% of the budget already". That one
stand dwarfs the rest of the stadium.
Our away end had a massive concourse with plenty of pissers in
the male toilets.......
Which reminds me, whoever left a massive vat of sick in one of
the men's bogs, seriously, Tuesday Night? Pre Season? Vomiting off
the ale? You are an absolute embarrassment. Go to your room! -
(Disclaimer: Apologies if someone was actually genuinely sick lol)
........and a bar that actually stayed open for the full 80
minutes. Yes I saw you, whoever you was old man, buying a pint with
2 minutes to go! The terrace itself has a roof but it doesn't look
like it will protect you much from wind and rain blowing in.
Luckily it wasn't a cold night tonight!
It's a very thin terrace with only 24 steps in depth. That could
be a tight squeeze when the league game comes round. The grounds
car park was pretty dire. It was half tarmac, half waterlogged
gravel. Not good considering the club charged a fiver! Despite
fears by the way, getting in the ground was pretty easy. Their is a
little ticket office right next to the away entrance which didn't
have any queues formed at it.
Anyway onto the game and the first thing to notice was at the
first scrum. A ton of steam rose up from the players. Wigan took
the lead with their first real attack on six minutes. Sam Tomkins
footwork attracted defenders towards him and he just sent Pat over
in the left corner. He couldn't convert off the touchline - so the
lead was just 4-0.
Salford's first attack came on 11 minutes with them having a
full set inside our 20 metre area. We defended well but Matty Smith
hit a neat grubber on the last towards the in goal. The bounce
could have easily beaten Sam but he almost bent over backwards in
not only defending it, but also managing to avoid a drop out.
As time ticked on towards 20 minutes, both sides had a full set
on each others try lines. First Josh Charnley was a bugs dick away
for Wigan before we defended out some Salford pressure created by
our own knock on.
Wigan then had two further chances, with Leuluai going closest
to scoring, but Salford levelled the score on 27 minutes. Not sure
who it was by, but a long cut out pass gave Danny Williams a huge
overlap to take advantage of in the right corner. Daniel Holdsworth
couldn't convert however, so the score was left at 4-4.
The score was pretty fair at this point but Wigan finished the
first half strongly. They forced a drop out before a neat grubber
from Sam was almost touched down by Pat, but he couldn't ground the
football. Then a kick to the right corner by Sam just evaded
Charnley's out-stretched arms. He would have scored had he taken it
Into the second half and Wigan had two further chances to score,
either side of a three minute injury delay which saw Salford's
Vinnie Anderson leave the field. First Sam was held up over the
line, then Pat tried taking on defenders out wide with a toe poke
towards the line but they dealt with that well.
Onto the 50 minute mark and I think Wigan had a sloppy ten
minutes here. For this spell it was looking like Salford would take
the lead - they had two or three good sets on our line, forcing a
drop out at one point, but a bit of class allowed Wigan to take the
It came on the hour. Sam Tomkins will get, and looking around is
getting, the plaudits for finishing the try off but bugger that,
this was all created by a break down the left. Quick hands swung
towards Pat got him breaking from his own 20, past halfway.
Excellent support play from the "Ginger Pearl" Liam Farrell, who
for a weird running forward is a great support player. He was
tackled but a quick play the ball allowed us to swing right and Sam
just took advantage of Salford's defence being unable to recover
from that break by Pat. It was rounded under the sticks, giving Pat
an easy conversion for 10-4.
In fairness to Sam, for long periods he was the only one showing
any sign of class in attack but like I said, it was his defence
which should be getting him plaudits, not so much his attack. His
neat jinking step makes him stand out but he certainly wasn't
cutting up Salford with anything. They were pretty solid in defence
themselves until that break by Pat broke their resistance.
Wigan had a good last quarter after that try but lacked patience
when in good position. We knocked on close the line and forced a
forward pass out left before finally sealing the result in the 77th
Minute. I mentioned Farrell's support play and he showed it here by
hitting Finch's pass with some decisive pace from 15 metres out.
Pat converted from the left side to make it 16-4.
I think Wigan's last couple of seasons highlight how hard work
can get rewards in Rugby League and Salford's hard work was
rewarded with an deserved consolation at the death. The injury to
Anderson earlier left plenty of injury time and they scored in the
fourth minute of it with a close range barge over from ex Warrior
Feka Paleaaesina. He looked pretty fit to me, and on that evidence,
he looks set for a big season with Salford after what seemed like a
pretty non event first season with them. Holdsworth's conversion
left the final score at 16-10 to Wigan.
So like I said, it wasn't poor but neither was it a performance
that got your fist pumping. A pretty standard pre season run out I
suppose, just bring on the proper stuff a week Sunday!