Well, a very angry reaction from Wigan fans in light of this 37-36 loss away to once winless Widnes following Shaun Wanes
decision to "rest" Sam Tomkins, Pat Richards, Sean O'Loughlin,
Thomas Leuluai and Liam Farrell
Clearly it backfired. I
think the logic was right but he pushed it too far! I was fully in
support of him resting Pat and Tommy but adding in Sam and
O'Loughlin was too much.
I've said all season that at some point we would need to give
the likes of Matty Russell, Joe Mellor and Logan Tomkins a chance
because our squad depth is weaker this year, experience wise, with
us having lost Paul Deacon, Andy Coley, Joel Tomkins and Ryan
Hoffman. People can forget that. That's over, a combined, 1,000
appearances worth of experience we've lost from our squad depth.
That is huge! Losing that can only result in a weaker squad.
So we have to blood youth to rebuild that squad depth, in terms
of experience up, because their is no substitute for experience,
and this is definitely the time of year to do it. You need to learn
who's good enough before the crunch end of the season comes. The
first five weeks of the season wasn't the time to blood youngsters
because it was important for us to lay a platform for the whole
year. Ok, disappointing loss to Huddersfield, but we certainly laid
a platform and I don't think this result wasted in actually.
Then look at our fixtures beyond this and next weeks game. We've
got Warrington, then quickly Saints/Easter, then you don't know
what kind of cup draws we might get, in between an always tricky
trip to Hull, then in May we have Huddersfield, Saints and Leeds in
a row, then before you know it were in Round 18 and into the crunch
end of the season.
Them kids today will take far more out of losing 37-36 than
winning 60-10 or whatever. They got to experience a big game
atmosphere and big game pressure, that will have been a totally new
experience for a lot of them today. You don't get close to that
pressure in the academy. Coach Wane will also, I think, have
learned a lot more out of that defeat than the romp we all expected
The biggest disappointment for supporters was that with Saints
and Warrington losing earlier in the weekend, we missed an easy
opportunity to go top of the table. I don't actually think being
top really matters anymore in this top 8 play off system. Don't get
me wrong, it would have been nice, but I think we would be far
better finish 4th having gone through this process of blooding
youngsters and improving squad depth than finishing first and
ending up at the fag end of the season a bit knackered with us
being forced to play a Matty Russell or Joe Mellor with no
experience what so ever.
I'm not saying all of the above is necessarily my opinion. I'm
playing a bit of devils advocate and trying to give a balance
argument. Like I said, I think his logic was spot on, he just
pushed it probably one player to far. If just one of Sam or Tommy been out
their today I think we've have won handsomely.
On the match - the
changes Wane actually made were to give debuts to Matty Russell
(full back), Anthony Gelling (right wing), Joe Mellor (Scrum Half)
and Logan Tomkins (bench). Josh Charnley switched from right to
left wing and I don't think that really worked to be honest. He
also played Chris Tuson at Loose Forward.
First ten minutes, we are laughing into our pies! Two tries
quickly on the board. First Gareth Hock crashed over from close
range before a good pass from Joe Mellor put Chris Tuson on the
breakaway before Harrison Hansen finished off. Josh Charnley on
goal kicking duty today had two simple conversions for 12-0 after
just 7 minutes.
It looked good but Widnes had barely touched the
football in truth and they slowly worked their way into the contest
once possession evened out. They eventually scored themselves on 20
minutes but I question whether Shaun Briscoe had knocked on in the
build up. He had two or three attempts juggling a pass but with
most Wigan fans and players expecting a knock on, it never came
from Robert Hicks. He played on and credit Widnes for playing to
the whistle. Paddy Flynn touched down and Gareth O'Brien converted
Widnes by now were on top, but it was Wigan who scored
their third try next against the run of play. Matty Russell claimed
it with some excellent footwork getting him over in the left
corner. A touchline conversion from Charnley was well received by
the Wigan faithful. He had a massive smile when he came back for
the kick off. He was also suffered poor taunts of "Gypo" from
Widnes supporters along the touchline following an incident earlier
in the match.
So it was 18-6 to Wigan with 10 to go to half time,
but the ten minutes up to half time showed why experience matters.
This was now a phase of play to keep it calm and defend that lead
to the break. But because of the lack of experience in key areas,
we never had any calm play at all during the whole afternoon. They
were always like a big bunch of giddy kippers.
Widnes got two
tries in two attacks on 34 and 36 minutes. First Wigan to Widnes
loanee Stefan Marsh scored with good footwork fooling Jack Hughes
in defence, before on the restart they carved us right up the gut
from half way with ex Warrior Shaun Briscoe finishing off the
break. Two conversions for O'Brien left it at 18 all half time and
to be honest I think were desperate for the oranges.
Second half started like the first half. Boom, boom, boom three
tries and all of a sudden we were 36-18 up. Classy tries as well.
Brett Finch was on fire during this spell. He claimed the first
with a lovely dummy and run to the line before another bit of magic
from him sent Mellor over in the right corner. Then when Matty
Russell went over for his second we all thought, right here
we go, but again the fact we'd had all the possession in the ten
minutes after half time was a factor in this rebuild of a lead.
Also Charnley was beasting it with goal kicking, another touchline
conversion was hit for the Mellor try.
So we are 36-18 up with half an hour to play but again this is
another phase of play that showed why the experience matters. We
needed to calm the game down now but we never did it. It was always
100 mile an hour with no foot being put on the brakes.
I think what will disappoint Wane more than anything is that we
contributed a lot to our own downfall. We conceded too quickly
after building up an 18 point lead and the way we conceded was
nothing short of soft. Two penalties help them up field with Gareth
Hock being a very guilty man. But the effort from Lloyd White
wasn't much to score from close range. Conversion made it 24-36.
Then the next try on 61 minutes came very unfortunately from a
Wigan point of view. Widnes had gone left and accidentally both
Darrell Goulding and (I think) Harrison Hansen clashed heads and
left each other on the ground. Play went on and with two men short
we were struggling to recover the overlap. In fact Goulding lay
down sparked out and motionless for a long period whilst play
continued further down the field. I still say that was poor because
Goulding was being prepared for a stretcher with a neck brace
whilst play was going on. Granted play was now far away from the
incident but I think their is a duty of care when it comes to the
head or neck and I think it was poor taste that play kept going on
until Widnes scored.
Now because Goulding was getting treatment, and Hansen had also
been shaken up, we just never recovered defensively and they found
a Grand Canyon sized overlap to eventually score. Briscoe it was
who claimed his second, O'Briens conversion making it 36-30. Then
from the restart, Josh Charnley kicked out on the full and they
soon made us pay. Frank Winterstein scored it and the conversion
tied the scores at 36-36 with 15 to play.
Widnes by now were cock
a hoop and giving everything in defence. Finch, who had been class
early in this half, was now basically being swamped up in defence
and no one else really stood up with the calm play required in this
Despite that though, I was still confident. Even after Widnes
had took the lead with a drop goal on 71 minutes, because they were
happy with that one point lead and began to shut up shop. They got
away with it but in a high scoring game like this, they did it a
bit to early I thought.
We nearly made them pay when we got a
penalty on 78 minutes. Now it was 40 metres out and at a slight
angle. Pretty similar to the Rob Burrow one if you remember the
game in which he missed a kick a goal to win at DW Stadium in 2008
when we won them 23-22. It was big pressure on a back up kicker but
the way he'd been kicking today, it was probably the right call to
go for it. Sadly though the kick was wide and didn't even go dead
for a 20 metre drop out, and most crucially a vital minute had been
wiped off the clock.
We still had a massive chance after that though, that really
should of been taken. A good kick towards the right corner had seen
Widnes knock on right on their own try line. So basically, we had a
full set on their line with 1:04 remaining on the countdown clock.
A perfect situation to nick the win. But today we didn't have
enough calm heads for obvious reasons and it showed because we had
lost possession within about 10 seconds of that time remaining.
Their was still even enough time for us to get the ball back but
time had beaten us and Widnes fans had got the win they had
massively craved and the Wigan supporters were left angry and
I don't think our feelings though should take away
from the fact that we had witnessed an excellent game of Rugby
League. I'm still worried for Widnes though. They looked fine in
attack today but for us to rest what we did and they still went on
to concede 36 points speaks volumes. I sadly feel today's result is
going to paper over the cracks rather than spark Widnes' season but
take nothing away from that sides spirit and effort today. They
could have rolled over and died twice in one game but didn't, that
is the positive for them to build on!
For Wigan, well I don't
think today was as bad as some people are making out. It puts more
emphasise on us now having to beat Warrington in two weeks time.
I'd rather us beat Warrington and lose to Widnes than hammer Widnes
and lose to Warrington. Those youngsters all did fine today really.
They will take many lessons out of that I think. Anthony Gelling
was a bit quiet though in my view, still doesn't look ready for me.
Anyway, we shall see what happens as the season progresses. It's
only as the season goes on will we know the true value of Shaun
Wane's decision today! I guarantee you, if we go on to beat
Warrington, this day will soon be forgotten!