In club experience. It is a huge advantage to have in your locker
and I think that's what ground Wigan down in this World Club
Challenge match against Sydney.
Five of our eight most
experienced within the club (by that I mean appearances for Wigan)
players from last season had departed in the off season and I don't
care who the side is, any champion side losing that amount of
within the club experience would struggle in an early season World
One of those five was Gareth Hock to be fair but just put that
in some context....
The other recent Super League Champion side has been Leeds and
their top 8 in club experience is Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow, Danny
McGuire, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Ryan Bailey, Jamie Peacock, Kylie
Leuluai, Ryan Hall.
Take any five (or even four to not count Hock) of those players
away from that Leeds team - do you reckon they'd do well on an away
trip to Sydney? I think they'd struggle as well, particularly
if one of those is goal kicker Sinfield. That's the context you
need to remember when thinking about this game. The Roosters didn't
really have that kind of disruption.
The disappointment though for Wigan will be regrets. A Wigan
player going out there today would not have wanted to leave the
field with any regrets and sadly they left with plenty.
I only woke up at 8:40am this morning and my first
reaction upon seeing the team news was that Wigan needed to get to
the interchange period with damage limitation. I really fancied our
bench compared to theirs to be honest but sadly we were 18-0 down
before they could take force.
Coach Wane obviously wanted impact and the fact the
Roosters found only a gift intercept try between 21 and 66 minutes
perhaps shows that it was a good tactic to use?
I didn't think Wigan had started that badly in both
attack and defence, they certainly put themselves about with the
big hits. However, the Roosters were clinical near our goal line.
Michael Jennings opening the scoring within three minutes and that
couldn't have been a worse start. Then further tries for Sam Moa
and a lucky bounce for Jennings' saw us 18-0 down, the conversions
from James Maloney being a massive dagger in the heart.
I'm sure everyone at this point though was thinking,
"oh god, this could be 50 or 60". I certainly did. But Wigan's
defence improved a lot when those interchanges came into affect, a
quality tackle by Joe Burgess to deny Shaun Kenny-Dowall the
One of those big regrets I think was during this
spell. Just as we started to get into a defensive rhythm, our
attack was at its worst. Forward passes and knock on's all over the
second quarter of the game from Wigan.
Still at 18-0 our hope wasn't dead. Even more so when
Joe Burgess scored three minutes after the re-start, our eyes began
to widen! Wigan had the second half really well and got good reward
with Budgie finding the overlap on the left. Smith couldn't convert
though. 18-4 the score.
Then came another big regret. Two minutes later,
sloppy Wigan play gave Jennings the mother of all gift tries for
the hat-trick. However.....looking back at the Sky+, I'm convinced
he failed to ground the ball. The ball bounces up and, although I
could be seeing it through rose tinted glasses, I don't think it's
Either way that was such a pisser for Wigan. 18-4
became 24-4 in an instant. Credit is due that Wigan didn't give up.
They kept fighting and got it back to 24-14. Josh Charnley scoring
both. The first a return gift after two Roosters failed to defend a
bomb, but the second was a great finish. Only one conversion out of
the two from Smith left Wigan still chasing a two score deficit.
Leaves you wondering what the game could have been
like had we not given Jennings that intercept, or whether they'd
checked his grounding. 18-14 would have made for an interesting
last 20 minutes.
It still was interesting but once Jarea
Warea-Hargreaves scored on 66 minutes, taking advantage of a Gil
Dudson knock on, Wigan's fightback was nailed shut. Another try for
Kenny-Dowall soon after completed the win.
At the end of the day, the best side won though. The
Roosters own time of year fitness levels contributed to the Wigan
positives to be fair but they were full of quality all game. Their
last tackle was a key factor. Ours was way off in comparison.
Given we were 18-0 down after 20 minutes, I think the
fact it didn't get any worse has to be seen as a positive. Wigan
were far from their best but Charnley and McIlorum not having
proper pre seasons, whilst captain O'Loughlin also carried an
injury made it even tougher.
Wigan need to draw from the experience going forward.
The delight from the game was the efforts of Burgess and Sarginson
on the left. Very strong. Jennings did his damage against Charnley
and Goulding on the other side after all.
I thought the pack competed well. Losing Pettybourne
(shoulder) in the 50th Minute was another blow to remember whilst
we were gathering momentum.
Have to comment on the big negative though. Matty
Bowen. I said on Wish FM during the Saints commentary three weeks
ago that he looked way off the pace and I still think so after that
display tonight. A full back not attempting to leap for bombs on
two occasions is very worrying. Especially one so experienced in
Australia, ten origin appearances no less.
He looks off it mentally for whatever reason. I think
it's been tough for him though. Since he arrived in Wigan in early
January, I reckon with the USA pre season trip and this trip added
on, he's spent more time out of the country than in Wigan so far.
He looks like an unsettled player and I'm certainly not going to
write him off so soon in his Cherry & White career.....but with
Ryan Hampshire bursting for a big opportunity, he's going to
struggle to hold onto his first team place on the form shown so
Anyway, draw from the experience of that trip Wigan
and let's move on. Wakefield at home next Sunday. That's a bit of a
climb down from this isn't it. Should be an interesting afternoon
though with many of this World Club Challenge team expected to be