A draw in the end but it does feel like a loss because Wigan
chucked away all their hard work with a terribly dumb last quarter
of play in this opening match of the season at Widnes.
frustrating because I thought we produced a lot of positive play
during the opening hour at least. Expectations weren't exactly
soaring after pre season but I thought John Bateman was superb and
I couldn't have been more impressed by Taulima Tautai. He went
looking for defensive work all the time (29 tackles) and made great
metres (8.6 metres per ball carry). Ryan Sutton had a great game
also, topping the tackle charts with 37.
This match was full of niggle and I thought for a while this
actually worked in Wigan's favour. I think it was tactic of Widnes
to niggle Wigan because the first two clearance kicks saw Matty
Smith getting a lot of afters.
I thought Wigan rose to that challenge though and began to give
Widnes some of that back. The shot from Ryan Sutton on Kevin Brown
was right in front of me and quite an immense hit from the 19 year
old and whilst you never want to see players get injured from "big
hits", their was no foul from Sutton. I think Widnes coach Denis
Betts summed it up best when he said after "I don't think (Brown
will) throw a dummy to Sutton again".
That hit came after Wigan had taken the lead with their first
real attack. It came off a penalty and a poor tackle attempt by
Stefan Marsh allowed Joel Tomkins to score in the left corner.
Smith couldn't convert, only 4-0.
Wigan began to get on top after that with John Bateman being at
the heart of a lot of it. He'd already made one break which sadly
saw the ball going to ground before a second break resulted in a
try for Anthony Gelling in the right corner after he was sent in by
Matty Bowen. Smith nailed a conversion for 10-0.
It was looking like it was falling apart for Widnes with first
Kevin Brown going off following that hit from Sutton and then a
minute later Ah Van was sent off for a swinging arm that left Josh
Charnley out cold and ended his night.
I've seen a few arguments over whether it should of been a red
or not but for me I think it the referees' are consistent over red
carding swinging arms like that, then that's a good thing, but the
consistency on it is the key to the argument. I think their is a
duty of care to protect head shots, particularly with players
getting stronger and stronger arms with the mass amounts of gym
work they do. If a similar shot goes unpunished next week then you
can understand an argument to say it wasn't a red card offence. So
it'll be interesting to see if consistency follows.
Wigan had to reshuffled with Charnley going off injured and it
was Bateman who went to right centre with Gelling moving to the
wing. I thought the loss of Bateman in the second row was a shame
but three minutes after the red card he got Gelling over with a
beautiful jinking step that fooled two defenders. It fooled me as
well to be fair because I thought initially he had made a terrible
decision not to pass but he move actually proved to be a classy one
that created the pace for Gelling to score. Had Bateman not delayed
his pass then Gelling would have to battle the touchline as well as
the defender, the delay meant he had to battle neither.
So having scored so soon after the red card and now with a 16-0
lead you could only expect Wigan to kick on from here to win
easily. But Joe Burgess dropping a good pass cold, for the second
time having bombed a try earlier, allowed Joe Mellor to return for
a gift try and with Danny Tickle converting, Widnes went into the
sheds with hope at 16-6.
Burgess certainly need to do better than that. Coach Shaun Wane
pointed out he wasn't impressed by him at St Helens and the two
drops he made in that first half were pretty standard passes to
take in. It'll be interesting if he keeps his place next week to be
honest. A ruthless streak reigns at Wigan and Dom Manfredi is good
enough to do a job if standards aren't met.
That hope grew stronger for Widnes early second half when they
made it 16-12 six minute after the interval. Lovely grubber from
Mellor bounced perfect for Rhys Hanbury to score and an easy
conversion made it 16-12.
Wigan needed to reset after starving themselves of ball early in
the second half and did so well to get back on the attack. Joel
Tomkins had a try chalked off but Joe Burgess scored on 56 minutes
to make it 22-12 after Smith converted off the touchline.
At this point Wigan should have controlled the rest of the game
but did none of the basics required in doing that. The niggle and
scruffy play of earlier still continued when this was now the time
to get away from that. Basic set completion was the order of the
day but Wigan just capitulated badly.
They had a big opportunity to kill it when Anthony Gelling was
wide open on the right wing but Matty Bowen's pass was 10 yards
forward. That could have been 26 or 28-12 and Wigan would have gone
on to probably get 40.
The way Wigan played late on, the comeback was inevitable. The
try though for 22-16 defensively from a Wigan point of view was
embarrassing. A huge overlap despite the extra man allowed Cameron
Phelps to score, Stefan Marsh missing the extras.
Wigan still had a try advantage but it never even seemed to
enter their heads to just plough forward towards drop goal
territory. Not getting to last tackles is criminal as well and this
just kept giving Widnes hope and they took advantage to score with
Manase Manuokafoa going over with three minutes to go. Easy
conversion made it 22-22.
After that try, Matty Smith was clearly seen kicking Rhys
Hanbury who was celebrating. Now whether Hanbury had said something
I don't know but the kick out from Smith summed up Wigan's
capitulation for me and the annoying thing is that it's senior
players doing it. Liam Farrell was guilty of frustration at St
Helens and now Smith here. I doubt he'll escape a ban for that, so
will probably be absent against Huddersfield.
In writing this I did note the Sky pundits questioning whether
it should be an 8 point try (which offers an extra shot of goal
after the conversion). By law they couldn't do that because the
incident occurred after the act of scoring the try BUT I actually
agree with Stevo and co that the rules should be changed to reflect
a foul like that. We couldn't have argued if rules allowed the
extra penalty to be given for the kick out by Smith, that would
have won the match by Widnes, but current rules don't allow for
Anyway the game ended a draw and the last twenty can only be
described as a horror show from Wigan. A lot of verbal daggers by
fans are being thrown at various players within the Wigan camp for
that collapse but if Burgess doesn't drop those two easy passes and
Bowen sends Gelling over when he's wide open, we probably win this
game by 40 points. So personally I'm not going to get too wound up
over it. If this was in a few weeks time then maybe but I think a
certain amount of rust was in play to harm us more than anything.
I'll wait and see what next week brings and hope to see more of the
positives than the negative play. It'll be interesting to watch how