What a night for the Wigan Rugby League club. Sam Tomkins, Pat
Richards, Blake Green, Matty Smith, Mike McIlorum, Sean O'Loughlin,
Liam Farrell and Ben Flower all absent yet we still find a way to
claim a fantastic victory away at Widnes.
Personally I think the
spine of a team, to use old fashioned numbering, is the 1, 6, 7, 9
and 13 positions and then you build everything else around those
players. To have all of that spine absent yet still cope well is
To cover those absences - Lewis Tierney was given a debut at
full back whilst Ryan Hampshire also got a debut off the bench. Sam
Powell and George Williams were the starting half backs with Logan
Tomkins at hooker and Greg Burke at Loose Forward. Anthony Gelling
also made a surprise return on the left wing vacated by Pat.
So for this clash the average age of the Wigan team was just
21.8. This compares to an average age of 28.7 for the Warrington
team that played at London on Saturday.
Those age stats should be telling you that the future is very
bright here at Wigan, even if a certain Sam Tomkins decides to
leave at the end of the season. OK one swallow doesn't make a
summer but you got a glimpse in this match of the talent that lies
beneath in our Under 19s at the moment.
Warrington meanwhile had nine players age 31 or higher playing
for them at London and Leeds two main props, Jamie Peacock and
Kylie Leuluai, are both age 35.
Now that experience may count for a lot come the back end of the
season again, only time will tell, but eventually they are going to
have to be replaced. Warrington especially have a hell of a lot of
work to do. They could go down the "throw the kids" in route but St
Helens are proving that it's not that simple.
Wigan meanwhile chuck the kids in and they are responding to the
challenge because they are so well mentally prepared. Rather than
fretting about Sam possibly leaving, you should actually be purring
about what's going on at Wigan at the moment. The other big sides
have plenty of holes to fill in their squads during the next two to
three years, we are way ahead and already competing at top level by
being way ahead.
I think we've already seen this year the effects of that.
Warrington had been deemed to have been below recent par earlier
this year but are now bucking up. Is that because they had both Lee
Briers and Adrian Morley absent and the return to hot form is
because both are back? Similarly Leeds struggled, for results at
least, in Jamie Peacock's recent absence. Experience does count for
a lot clearly but Wigan are getting a young side building a massive
amount of experience, those two sides have still to do that!
Now the match itself. Well it wasn't pretty at times and had
Widnes scored when they led at 26-22, we would have lost it was as
simple as that. However those youngsters will have learned a great
deal from this experience.
I stressed during my Wish FM commentary summarising that their
would be times during this game in which they would just simply
have to hang in for a spell of pressure and that came midway during
the second half. They created a lot of that pressure themselves but
withstood about 10 minutes of it before pushing on to win the
match. That showed massive character!
I think it has to be pointed out that Widnes had key absences
also. Shaun Briscoe, Cameron Phelps, Stefan Marsh, Kevin Brown, Ben
Cross and Gareth Hock were missing for them, and all ex Wigan to
boot. In fact overall 19 ex Wigan academy players started in this
What Wigan needed to do was come out full of vigour and
intensity. I felt that, despite going 10-0 ahead, at Wakefield we
started the match really slowly. Here we were full of it with a
great pack effort from opening props Eric Lauaki and Lee Mossop,
whilst Harrison Hansen was a beast in the back row all night.
That intensity led to Wigan taking the lead with their first
possession. A "back to one" helped but Logan Tomkins darted over
from nine metres to score by the posts. Josh Charnley converted
easily for 6-0.
Widnes though responded with a try on 7 minutes. Greg Burke
penalised for lying on in the tackle and a great pass from Rhys
Hanbury got Patrick Ah Van over in the corner. Charnley was left
flapping in defence, a pattern which continued for much of the
night. Jack Owens conversion missed, so Wigan still led 6-4.
Wigan though hit back and were well on top for the next 15
minutes or so. They scored twice during this spell. First a penalty
conceded by Willie Isa in the 14th minute was punished when Iain
Thornley's offload got Lewis Tierney in the left corner for a debut
try. Charnley then nailed a touchline conversion for 12-4.
Then on 22 minutes, Williams spotted huge space over on the left
side again and despite it only being the second tackle, he put the
kick to the corner and Gelling won the leap to the ball for the
try. Charnley missed the conversion leaving the score at 16-4.
I felt Wigan lost a bit of edge once the first interchanges came
into effect. Dom Crosby, Scott Taylor and Jack Hughes came on to
replace Burke, Mossop and Lauaki over a period of 10 minutes and
Widnes were the side on top up to half time.
They scored twice. First on 27 mintues, Hanbury broke through
missed tackles on half way and sent the supporting Adam Lawton over
near the posts. Then two minutes before half time Frank Winterstein
scored after Hanbury had kicked into space and Owens had collected
well and quickly offloaded. Two conversions from Owens made it 16
all the break.
I was a little bit gutted for Wigan that they went in level but
they came out strong again second half. Except for Darrell Goulding
who missed the rest of the game with apparent illness. Jack Hughes
had to fill in at centre.
Wigan scored quickly with Charnley claiming a blinder. He took a
pass one metre from his own line, out stepped Steve Pickersgill and
then raced the 99 metres left for the score. Doing the Wish FM
commentary I was sat in a position that was about 75 metres to go
and by the time he had reached level with us you knew he wasn't
going to be stopped. Hanbury started level with him but looked like
he had legs in wet cement compared to Josh. Easy conversion made it
22-16 to us again.
The home side were determined to keep going with us toe to toe
and hit back again on 49 minutes with a try from the impressive
Hanbury. Iain Thornley's defence continues to be a worry for me
though. He failed to wrap Dave Allen up and then his departed space
was what Hanbury scored through. Owens converted to level up at
Then came a huge swing that for a long time was looking massive
in terms of the end result. A no try decision went against Hansen
after Logan Tomkins had been deemed to have knocked on. Now it was
totally the correct decision for me but the bounce up of the ball
off his thigh was so unlucky.
After the video referee deliberation, it was only 54 seconds
later Widnes were up the other end to take the lead for the first
time in the match with Hanbury again the provider to get Ah Van
over. Conversion was missed but the lead was now with the home side
This was the spell now in which Wigan had to hang in. four
separate errors from Gelling, Lauaki, Charnley and Hughes gave the
home side the chances but they didn't take any of them. Like I said
had they scored here I think that would have been game over. Ah Van
went closest but just couldn't keep in the field of play trying to
score in the corner.
Like the Logan no try, this Ah Van no try decision was a big
momentum swinger also because just over a minute after it Wigan had
scored up the other end. Tierney's pass got Thornley bursting down
the left and he timed his offload perfectly to get Gelling over for
his second. It was handed on to the video ref and after almost
three minutes of deliberation, he gave the try and the scores were
now level again at 26 all after Charnley failed with the extras.
One thing Wigan had done during that spell under the pump was
throw back on Scott Taylor whilst also bringing on Ryan "Rocky"
Hampshire for George Williams. This turned into a masterstroke
because they provided great and much needed energy during this
Rocky didn't really do anything special but he had plenty of
buzz about him and that I felt put off the tired defenders in front
of him. It was so pleasing on 71 minutes to see the youngsters all
around to convert what proved to be a vital drop goal.
Tierney was in at the play the ball and it was good to see Logan
not pushing the youngster away from that like some hookers would
do. Tierney gave the ball to Sam Powell and he nailed the drop goal
from 39 metres, which put Wigan back ahead at 27-26.
Wigan were now not making errors and managed to back that drop
goal up with a match clinching try. An error from Ah Van near his
own line provided the chance and Powell was again at the heart of
it. He beat a missed tackle from Hep Cahill, half out stepped Dave
Allen, then offloaded perfectly to get Taylor under the posts. What
a time for him to claim the first try of his Wigan career and well
deserved. He was massive in this final quarter. Easy conversion
from Charnley made it 33-26.
A two score lead and the clock was now Wigan's friend. Only 4
minutes and 17 seconds remained when Widnes had failed with a short
kick off but Widnes had not given up when they got the ball back.
That man Hanbury again, almost a one man attack for the Vikings,
broke clear down the left and hacked the ball on for everyone to
chase. If the bounce of the ball had gone for him, he was in under
the posts but the bounce fell to Jack Hughes.
Wrap the ball up now for a full set and this game was dusted,
but Hughes almost got the lesson of his life. He knocked on and was
punished with Ah Van touching down a Lloyd White kick to claim his
A quickly taken touchline conversion from Owens made it 33-32 to
Wigan but they still had 1 minute and 20 seconds left on the clock.
Wigan snatching defeat from the jaws of victory was looking
ominous, especially when White had made a half break down the left
side again. Hampshire it was who scrambled back to tackle him but
Widnes were now in drop goal range to try for the draw. Instead
however they seemed to get caught in two minds and tried a kick
towards Ah Van which was never on and trickled into touch.
Such waste but what a relief for us Wigan fans. The clock ran
out and Wigan had kind of hung on in the end. It was a deserved
victory I felt though and one that showed such immense character.
Great effort. Much as we saw a quality effort from captain for the
night Harrison Hansen, it was the youngsters Powell, Tierney,
Hampshire, Logan Tomkins and Taylor in the middle of the park that
were all massive in that last period of the game. Delighted to see
that. This young squad as a whole will have plenty of small margins
to learn from......but what a result! And Huddersfield losing at
Hull KR just made it all the more sweeter because we now are five
points clear at the top of Super League.