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Match Report: Wigan 16 Harlequins 12
Posted by Bilko on March 09 2007 - 22:07

Click: Last Match - Click: Next Match

Wigan Warriors v Harlequins. Engage Super League XII Round 5.
Friday 9th March 2007. Kick Off 8:00pm at JJB Stadium.

Thoughts on the Match

Some fans may frown when we "take the two", like we did on two occasions tonight, but it turned out to be the difference in this tense match at the JJB.

In all the home victories at the back end of last season, we kept kicking 2 pointers which proved vital. So it was again tonight.

Tonight, we still looked pretty poor in all honesty but certainly in the second half the endeavour and will to hang on to victory was there.

I still remain immensely frustrated though that in first half's we have conceded 13 tries compared to just 5 in second half's. In fact we've conceded zero second half tries at the JJB so far this season! That should really reward us with a 3-0 winning start to our home campaign than a 1-2 losing record!

Clearly it does indicate that fitness have improved dramatically this year under Brian Noble and his fitness coach Mike Forshaw. It boads well for the future but again it is frustrating that poor first halves have wasted this great effort in past matches.

The absence of Chris Ashton will only fuel the fire in terms of his proposed move to Northampton Rugby Union. But perhaps his omission was justified? Didn't have the best of games against Hull KR and a little kick up the backside won't do him any harm.

Great crowd again. Although admittedly approximately 1,500 tickets were given free to Latics season ticket holders, the crowd was still 2,642 up on last years Easter Monday fixture. With bigger names to come, and St Helens twice, it suggests we could even break a 16,000 average attendance this year. Only time will tell but for a team struggling to find some rhythm and fluency it is a tremendous effort by the clubs marketing department.

To sum up. Defence massively improved but in attack we still lack quality and calmness.

Story of the Match

It was a quiet start to the match really. Wigan took the lead after just 6 minutes with a penalty goal from Pat Richards. Quins had interfered in the tackle and the goal was slotted from 25 metres.

First try went to the visitors though on the quarter hour. Former Warrior Henry Paul, delayed his pass beautifully and prop Daniel Heckenberg walked through some non-existent defence to cross under the posts. At the time it looked like the same old poor Wigan defence but in hindsight it was a rare lapse. Paul Sykes adding the easy conversion to give Quins a 6-2 lead.

Coach Noble had brought Feka off after just 13 minutes which led to screams that this was "not good enough". But he used a different tactic. Rather than giving him 20 minutes and leaving him off until around the 50 minute mark, he brought him off earlier and then put him back on for Stu Fielden in the 24th minute. Clearly this tactic worked as Feka did 47 minutes. A big increase on his 32 minute average so far this year. Gareth Hock coming off injured on 19 minutes didn't help but he would return during the second half.

Anyway Wigan hit back with a try which was our first try in a opening half at the JJB this year. A kick was fielded brilliant by Mark McLinden a metre from his own line but I think Michael Withers stole it one on one and crossed over for the simplest of tries. Now he may of knocked on McLinden, I'm not sure, but it was a priceless gift which gave Withers his first Warriors four pointer. Richards converted to make it 8-6 to Wigan. A second penalty goal, this time for not standing square, increased the lead to 10-6 on the half hour.

Wigan were beginning to turn the screw with half time approaching as they forced a repeat set when McLinden was tackled into touch by Mark Calderwood after a nice kick from Sean O'Loughlin. This was my queue for the half time pint and the clock read 35:30. 4 minutes with a drop out, I was confident we'd get into half time with either a four point lead or more. But no, no sooner had I reached the bar, Quins went on to score what I believe was a soft try when Scott Hill crossed over. Henry Paul goaled to send Quins into half time with a 12-10 lead.

Just on the subject of the bar. The pump I was queuing for ran out of beer at HALF TIME. The time of the game when most people want a beer! "Anyone want just bitter" the bar girl shouted. No one wanted just bitter because we had enough bitterness watching the match last week. Anyway please get the beer flowing in preparation for the break! Also, whilst on a rant here, those TV screens in the East Stand. Complete waste of time! They looked like they've been focused by a blind man!

Anyway into the Second Half and for me a big key to us winning was that Harlequins seemed to try and hang on to a 2 point lead for 40 minutes! Tactically the visitors kicked well and kept us at arms length but we were always going to get one chance to score, evenly playing badly.

Wigan were boosted shortly after the restart when Hock reappeared for Hansen, and showed they meant business when McLinden lost possession after a big hit from Bryan Fletcher.

But, despite a weaving run from Leuluai that saw him evade several would-be tacklers, neither side looked overly likely to provide a moment of magic as the game entered the final quarter.

Trent Barrett nearly provided that touch of class after 61 minutes, as he raced through the cover defence, almost going over in the corner. But Chris Melling, another former Wigan man, got him in touch a metre short.

Melling was the hero there but he soon became a zero. He fumbled a high bomb in front of his own posts which gave Wigan the field position to pounce. On the third tackle, Leuluai sent Vaealiki over in the corner and due praise to him for narrowing the angle a good 10 metres inside which meant Richards could easily convert and make it 16-12.

Wigan were holding on comfortably until the clock went off the JJB scoreboard. The removable of the clock meant full time was near and I made it 4 and a half minutes that got added on. During this time Harlequins were battering our line and looked certain to nick the win but Wigan's defense held solid. They eventually got the ball back and hung on for the hard fought win.

Game Breaking Moment

A knock on by Chris Melling under his own posts gave Wigan the field position to score the winning try, although they had 13 minutes to hang on.

Top Player

Probably David Vaealiki. He scored the clincher and his effort is much improved. He is now upped a level to "average" so far this season. Last season of a contract? "Oh I'll start playing" syndrome methinks.

Reaction to the Action

Brian Noble: "I thought it was a tough game of rugby, I thought Harlequins played their part in making it a game. We toughed it out and the character we showed in the second half was terrific. We had to be patient, they are well coached. We said we would probably get them towards the back end of the game, we looked at what they do and they start games pretty well. When I came down from upstairs there was two minutes to go, where did all that added time come from ? I wouldn't want the timekeeper to boil me an egg. Where did all that extra time come from? Where did four minutes come from? I can only remember the one stoppage for Mark McLinden. Anyway it gave a chance to test our line and see our desire.  (The combinations) are all getting better and better. Leuluai and Barrett put in some big hits. I was pleased with a number of players, I thought Pat Richards, Michael Withers and David Vaealiki all played their part." (Withers took a hit to the) ribs but he should be OK, we will check on him on Saturday, hopefully he will be alright. Hock's back spasmed so we had to take him off. I thought Sean O'Loughlin had another terrific game, I think he is growing with the responsibility. (Chris Ashton's omission) was a selection thing. We have spoken to Chris at length and a couple of the simple things he will have to take out of his game will make him the player we think he will be."

Harlequins coach Brian McDermott: "At Knowsley Road (where Quins beat St Helens in Round 1), it was a different kind of game, it had a different structure. But, in terms of the performance, that was the best we have played. I'm that proud and I'm so sorry for the players. They are dejected and I don't think we need to improve much - we just maybe needed the bounce of the ball or the rub of the green. It was an outstanding game of rugby league. And I wouldn't have been embarrassed to win that. But Wigan played very well, and their defence was excellent at the end."

Team Sheets

- Wigan Position Harlequins -
4 Michael Withers Full Back Mark McLinden 1
2 Mark Calderwood Winger Jon Wells 2
3 Phil Bailey Centre Paul Sykes 3
14 David Vaealiki Centre Tyrone Smith 4
5 Pat Richards Winger Matt Gafa 18
6 Trent Barrett Stand Off Scott Hill 6
7 Thomas Leuluai Scrum Half Danny Orr 7
8 Stuart Fielden Prop Daniel Heckenberg 10
16 Shane Millard Hooker Chad Randall 9
10 Iafeta Paleaaesina Prop David Mills 15
11 Gareth Hock 2nd Row Jon Grayshon 20
12 Bryan Fletcher 2nd Row Rob Purdham 13
13 Sean O'Loughlin L.Forward Henry Paul 23
- - - - -
9 Mick Higham Substitute Karl Temata 8
18 Paul Prescott Substitute Julien Rinaldi 14
19 Harrison Hansen Substitute Chris Melling 16
21 Danny Hill Substitute Louis
McCarthy-Scarsbrook
17

Score Sheet

Wigan Warriors 16 - Harlequins 12
Tries (2):
Michael Withers
David Vaealiki
- Tries (2):
Daniel Heckenberg
Scott Hill
Goals:
Pat Richards 4/4
-

 

Goals:
Paul Sykes 1/1
Henry Paul 1/1

Scoring and Incident Pattern

6th Minute Wigan 02 Harlequins 00 Penalty Goal: Pat Richards (1/1)
15th Minute Wigan 02 Harlequins 04 Try: Daniel Heckenberg
- Wigan 02 Harlequins 06 Conversion: Paul Sykes (1/1)
21st Minute Wigan 06 Harlequins 06 Try: Michael Withers
- Wigan 08 Harlequins 06 Conversion: Pat Richards (2/2)
32nd Minute Wigan 10 Harlequins 06 Penalty Goal: Pat Richards (3/3)
37th Minute Wigan 10 Harlequins 10 Try: Scott Hill
- Wigan 10 Harlequins 12 Conversion: Henry Paul (1/1)
Half Time Wigan Warriors 10 Harlequins 12
65th Minute Wigan 14 Harlequins 12 Try: David Vaealiki
- Wigan 16 Harlequins 12 Conversion: Pat Richards (4/4)
Full Time Wigan Warriors 16 Harlequins 12

Referee

Ian Smith

Match Attendance

14,971

Match Weather

Dry.

League Table at Conclusion of Super League 12 Round 5

- Team P W D L F A Diff Pts
1 Bradford Bulls 5 4 0 1 164 114 +50 8
2 Wakefield Wildcats 5 4 0 1 133 86 +47 8
3 Hull Kingston Rovers 5 4 0 1 89 81 +8 8
4 St Helens 5 3 0 2 128 87 +41 6
5 Leeds Rhinos 5 3 0 2 106 94 +12 6
6 Warrington Wolves 5 3 0 2 92 130 -38 6
7 Harlequins 5 2 1 2 82 69 +13 5
8 Wigan Warriors 5 2 0 3 88 102 -14 4
9 Catalans Dragons 5 1 1 3 76 100 -24 3
10 Hull FC 5 1 1 3 60 84 -24 3
11 Salford City Reds 5 1 1 3 96 140 -44 3
12 Huddersfield Giants 5 0 0 5 58 85 -27 0

Round 5 Results
Fri 9 Mar Warrington Wolves 12 St Helens 48 13,024
Fri 9 Mar Wigan Warriors 16 Harlequins 12 14,971
Sat 10 Mar Hull Kingston Rovers 22 Leeds Rhinos 20 8,086
Sun 11 Mar Bradford Bulls 56 Salford City Reds 18 10,640
Sun 11 Mar Huddersfield Giants 12 Hull FC 16 7,188
Sun 11 Mar Wakefield Wildcats 40 Catalan Dragons 20 5,332

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