"This will be a tough cup tie. We will be forced to battle for
That's a direct quote from my match preview and that's
exactly how it panned out. Wigan had to fight all the way in seeing
off Championship Champions Featherstone on a boggy Post Office Road pitch.
The home side defended superbly on the night to make Wigan work
hard for their tries but for me that was a fair end result. Wigan
controlled the second half with Rovers only try after the
break coming from an intercept following a clear two on one ball
strip. If that try hadn't of happened this game could have been
more 40-12 than 32-16, but the end result was a better reflection of
the home sides efforts on the night.
I think its fair to say the conditions suited the home side. The
boggy pitch stifled our speedy backs and made this game very much a
forwards battle, and what a keenly contested battle that was!
Rovers didn't budge many inches all night in standing up to our
strong pack, but I thought it was the quality of Mike McIlorum and
Brett Finch in around the try line that proved the ultimate difference
between the two sides.
Wigan got off to a dodgy start with a knock on called against
Jeff Lima just 30 seconds into the contest, but soon made
amends for that on their first attack. I talked about McIlorum and
Finch at the heart of this win and it was those two that set this
up. Micky Mc with the initial work from dummy half, then a quick play the
ball sees Finch gets the ball and fire a lovely pass that cut out
two defenders and allowed captain Sean O'Loughlin to score. It was
close to interception in fairness but that's the fine margins that
Finch likes to pull off. Sam Tomkins for some reason was on goal
kicking and he converted for 6-0.
The clock ticked passed 15 minutes with the score still only 6-0
to Wigan. Some murmurs on the terraces of Wigan being poor during
the first half, I didn't
necessarily buy that myself. I thought it was a good hard even contest. Yes, Wigan were making one or two errors but I can't say I
was ever concerned too much about that. Even after Rovers claimed
two tries in a three minute spell either side of the 20 minute
Their first try came from Tommy Saxton. Anthony Gelling was guilty of
a loose carry when hitting up from our own scrum. Rovers Jon Hepworth scooped up the loose ball and because of the scrum our
defence was never set to recover from that and Saxton was in the
corner easy. Liam Finn couldn't convert so Wigan still led 6-4. Must admit I
was murmuring about a two on one ball strip at the game but I think
it was a loose carry seeing it again at home.
Now the next "try" for me is a total garbage decision.
First of all Wigan were penalised for offside at the kick off. I
wouldn't have a problem with that if it was consistently officiated
but it never is. That put Fev right back on the attack and pretty
soon they were over again. It was
decided that Ian Hardman had touched down a kick from Finn but it
still doesn't look like he grounded it to me. I think that's a knock on.
Either way why don't we cut the garbage and just have the rule
being a full hand on the ball with pressure constitutes a try? We'd
all know where we stood then! Anyway it was given and with Finn's conversion it was now
10-6 to Featherstone.
Wigan showed their calm composed play by not panicking and
quickly responding with their own score within two minutes.
McIlorum again with the initial work up the middle then they swung
right with Sam and O'Loughlin combining to send Goulding chiming at
the line. His dummy to Charnley fooled Finn and Fuzzy was in the
right corner to level the scores. Sam had tweaked a groin in this
period of play, so Josh Charnley took over on goal kicking, but he missed this effort.
We could have increased that lead on 32 minutes but Anthony
Gelling had a try chalked off for obstruction in back play before
Featherstone had a good spell on the back of that. They forced a
repeat set and got a good breather deep in our half when Harrison
Hansen suffered a vicious injury under the posts. Trying to tackle
Stuart Dickens, his cheekbone clashed with Dickens' head and then
for a double whammy his nose butted the same players head. Possible
fractured cheekbone and a clear broken nose for H, but amazingly he
would return later. Long term though that has to be a lengthy
absence in the next few weeks?
Soon after that Rovers got a cheap penalty to give them a 12-10
lead that they almost held until the break, but Wigan scored in the
final minute of the half. They got an interference penalty and
straight from the tap, that man Finch nailed Gareth Hock with a
perfect pass to send him charging over by the posts. Easy
conversion for Charnley, despite a green laser pen being shone in
his eye, made it 16-12 to Wigan at the break.
During the oranges
I think we sorted out what was needed to win this game. Firstly
patience and then a better kicking game. I thought the latter was
superb after the break. We pinned Featherstone back in their out
quarter time and time again.
I write it every week but the first
try of the second half is often the game breaker and for Wigan to
claim it, and thus build up a two score lead, enabled them further
to get control of this contest. It took 13 minutes to come, and
perhaps a bit of good fortune with a back to one in the build up,
but Leuluai managed to stretch over from close range in the right
corner. Have to say Brian Carney's attempts on Sky's coverage to
claim he knocked that on were frankly laughable. A big conversion
from Josh made it 22-12.
Wigan were now a try away from taking
total control of the game for me but a terrible officiating blunder
got Rovers back into the contest. 58th Minute and its clear as day
on the video. Brett Finch has possession in from of the attacking
sticks and he is ball stripped by Finn with two men in the tackle.
Now I had my eye on referee Richard Silverwood and he simply wasn't
watching. You even hear him on the TV coverage shout "two" for the
second tackle after Finn had run ten metres. I still had my eye on
Silverwood and, seriously, Finn had got well past half way before
he even reacted to the breakaway.
Now had Wigan just stopped and
allowed Finn to score this would have been chalked off by the video
referee for the ball strip but because one tackle was made before
the try was scored, that choice was ruled out. So the try was
awarded. That wasn't Featherstone's fault but to be frank it was
bone idle officiating. What are the touch judges doing as well?
Anyway the break meant Wigan's defence never recovered and Gareth
Raynor went over in the right corner. Although Finn missed the
extras - the score was now 22-16 and from Wigan being in control it
was now game on again.
Wigan though again, they didn't flap, they
didn't panic, they just went back to basics and re-established
their two score lead six minutes later. Leuluai it was with a
fantastic pass to send Charnley over through the right corner
overlap. Although Josh missed the extras, the game was back in
Wigan's control at 26-16.
Featherstone never gave up, you have to
say that, but never looked like threatening us from then on. In
fact, like I said, they hadn't built up any pressure all half. It
was always looking like a Wigan score to wrap it up and it probably
should have come sooner than it did. Gelling had a great chance to
score in the left corner on 72 minutes but knocked on.
was eventually wrapped up by Hock with two minutes to go and it was
a try that Sam Tomkins himself would have been proud of. 12 metres
out and on the last, he put in a dab towards the in goal and won
the race to touch it down. "Butcher" Hock gets accused of brain
farts every game, butthat was clever stuff. I notice though he's
getting a bit of a ribbing on twitter for the fact he kicked the
ball. Karl Pryce said "butcher ladd!!! where did that kick come
from!!!" and Stuart Fielden added "you know the rules . You get
your p45 for kicking the ball butcher!" Anyway, Charnley converted
to wrap up a 32-16 win.
Not sure how Sky's commentary team came
up with Josh for man of the match. This was a game decided by hard
work up the middle rather than out wide. Like I alluded to, it was
McIlorum by a mile for me with Finch up their as well. Two classy
performances that got us through to the Quarter Finals.
Featherstone's ground, it was a bit of a dog to be truthful. A walk
up a muddy path to get to the turnstile was followed by a trip to a
urinal which looked like it had been nailed together with any spare
bits of wood they could find. Although I must admit it was amusing
to see a Police Van get stuck in the mud behind our sticks and
having to be towed out.
So simple put, job done! Now for the Quarter Final draw which
takes place this Tuesday Morning at 8:20am during BBC Radio 5
Live's Breakfast Programme.