Well I must admit I was in the camp that thought our pack might
struggle this year, particularly after the dismal friendly showing
against Warrington, but they really muscled up here to give us
bright hope for the rest of this season.
It would have been an
injustice had Wigan not got something out of this contest and I
suppose a draw was a fair reflection in the end.
I think Wigan need to learn a lesson though. The only real
complaint about our efforts was the stupid tackled off the ball
incident on Brett Hodgson with just over five minutes to go. We had
the point lead and this was clearly not a night for tries being
scored from deep, so you have to condemn how cheaply Pat Richards,
our oldest player on the park, gave away that penalty. It didn't
lead directly to the equalising drop goal, but it certainly got
Warrington away from the try line in attack and they soon got us
Pat wasn't at his best in defence either but to be honest this
was more of a performance with plenty of positives. For starters
its a point that we haven't picked up in each of the last three
seasons and against a Warrington side that had EIGHT players in
their line up older than our oldest squad member. That speaks volumes
about how we are set for the future and perhaps instead of
bemoaning the losses of great talents like Tommy Leuluai and George
Carmont we should rejoice in watching a young Wigan side full of
academy bred talent rather than a team full of ageing players. Yep
that experience at Warrington might well mean trophies for them
rather than us this year, who knows, but it could also mean they'll
peg out as the season wears on. It might just been that, that
experience will count for them at the back end of the year but as
long as our team grows whilst the season goes on, we'll be laughing
at some point in the near future I'm sure.
Good to see Blake Green and Matty Smith showing good signs of
combination also. We seem to have some ideas on the last tackle now
and that's something which I've been moaning about for a long, long
time. Hope that continues to improve! It was the youngsters in the pack that really showed up though.
Liam Farrell and Jack Hughes were excellent in the second row and
Greg Burke had a powerful debut off the bench.
Warrington ended up scoring first with Joel Monaghan squeezing
over in the right corner, followed by a touchline conversion from
Brett Hodgson for 6-0 after 10 minutes.
Wigan responded brilliantly to that and had a great spell
for the next twenty minutes, topped off by two tries. First, after
forcing a drop out, Josh Charnley was sent over in the right corner
but the conversion from Richards went wide. Then Ben Flower took
advantage of some woeful Wolves defending to score near the posts.
Pat converted that one for a 10-6 Wigan lead.
Crucial try that second one because I felt the
interchanges would benefit Warrington more than us. Although Flower
himself had come off the bench, I think that actually proved right.
Whilst you have to continually question Mike McIlorum's penalty
conceding, I think he was missed when he was spelled around the
half hour mark for the inexperienced Sam Powell. I like the
experiment of trying Powell as an alternative hooker but I'm not
sure its a wise move to try it out against an opponent like this.
I felt we stifled a bit during this period and needed half time
to re-gather. Didn't really surprise me when Warrington scored four
minutes from half time with Monaghan claiming a second but
Hodgson's conversion went wide to leave the scores at 10-10. The
try came after Josh Charnley had knocked on defending a kick but it
did look like he was taken out in the air.
That looked like being that but two penalties conceded by
Garreth Carvell allowed Wigan to nip in a penalty goal from Pat
just before the break for a 12-10 lead.
Big plus for me came early in the second half. Not so much the
early try conceded, Richie Myler scored a classy try and Hodgson
converted for 16-10 to Warrington, but more that we didn't collapse
at this point. In other recent Warrington visits to Wigan, you could almost sense our teams
shoulders sagging at moments like that, and the try line always
seemed miles away, but not in this match.
We scored a great try to get back in it on 50 minutes. Lovely
dummy from Green before he hit Farrell with the delayed short pass.
Similar to a try scored in the friendly at Salford last month and
worked well again here. Poor failed conversion though from Pat left
the scores tied at 16-16.
After that it was a game of few chances. Wigan had a crucial
three or four set stand at one point but in the main defences were
on top well away from the try lines. So it was down to one pointers and Wigan actually kicked
one on 70 minutes with Matty Smith doing the honours to put us
That was our first drop goal since the 2011 World Club Challenge
and in Super League you had to go back to the Brian Noble era and a
drop goal by Sam Tomkins during a 29-26 win away at Castleford in
August 2009. At home the last drop goal in Super League was by Pat
Richards in a 23-22 win over Leeds in July 2008.
So a one pointer had been long overdue and for me it should have
been enough but sadly we let Warrington off the hook with that daft
tackle in the air penalty from Pat on Hodgson and they found just enough territory to
level up with an inevitable drop goal from the porky Lee Briers.
In the end it finished 17-17 and I suppose it depends on our
next result whether this is ultimately a good point or not. Victory
at Huddersfield would wrap up an excellent trio of results to get
this season underway, let's see if we can back this performance up