Well the pitch at the DW was knackered
even before the kick off of this season opener against
Catalan Dragons. Latics hosting a Youth Cup match against
Manchester City, that went to extra time in pouring rain on
Tuesday, trashed the surface and it left for a retro match
that harked back to the winter days that ended 20 years ago.
Given the awful conditions, I thought
Wigan produced a very efficient performance. It was obvious that
getting down field was not going to be easy without either
errors or penalties and we played the conditions far better
than the French visitors.
Especially in the first half. Wigan were
pretty error free whilst Catalan were penalised for
incorrect play the ball on at least four occasions. Those
errors produced gift attacking territory but early on, kicking early
in the tackle count tactics proved a failure under poor
Eventually though, Wigan got the lead
from another Catalan error. A poor pass towards Krisnan
Inu ended up with Micky McIlorum touching a loose ball down
from two metres out. It was just to the left of the posts
but Matty Smith started his goal kicking season with an
embarrassing miss that was almost reminiscent of the famous
Don Fox miss in the 1968 Wembley "water splash" final.
So Wigan led 4-0 after 15 minutes and
three minutes later McIlorum scored again. Great footwork
from George Williams almost got him over but his offload
found Micky and he scored almost in the same spot as the
first try. Smith converted this time for 10-0.
Catalan's handling of the conditions had
been awful but the nearer half time came, the more they
started to find themselves in attacking zones. It would
have been a bit harsh had Wigan gone into the sheds with a
score anything less than the 10 point lead they had but they were
hanging on as the hooter sounded.
Into the second half and an error on the
kick off allowed Catalan to quickly find their first score
of the season. I thought generally Lewis Tierney did ok in
difficult conditions but in this instance he's not the
first player to be deceived by the flight of a Pat Richards
Tierney though was perhaps guilty of
misjudgement on a kick that went through for Justin Horo to
score before he could kick it dead. I still don't get why
players always try to flick or kick the ball dead behind
the goal line when all you need to do is ground the ball in
goal, in effect score an "own try" so to speak. If he
throws his body on that it'd be harder for Horo to score
surely? It was a close call and experience should help him
learn from that but it got Catalan back in the game at 10-6
after Pat Richards converted.
Catalan continued to press but a poor
kick eventually saw Tony Clubb with space to make a rare break up the field
that was only halted by a swinging arm from Grégory
Mounis. That resulting penalty got Wigan further up the
field. and eventually another penalty was given in kicking
With the pitch getting worse, and territory gain
obviously being tough, it was a no brainier for Wigan to
"take the two" and Smith slotted for 12-6.
I said on the radio at this point that "12-6 isn't a big
lead, but tonight it is a big lead, if you know what I
mean". I meant by that, that getting to the try line was so
tough that getting to 12-6 meant we now didn't necessarily
have to get to the try line because a drop goal or penalty
goal can be kicked from any decent range.
Given that, I was flabbergasted that Wigan did not once try
to set up for the one pointer in the final 25 minutes. It
was increasingly obvious that if Wigan got 13-6 that the
game was done. Catalan were not scoring twice but their is
always a chance they could find one try.
It would have been a harsh injustice had Catalan got back
to 12-12 but had they done so, Wigan would have only
themselves to blame. They got in position four or five
times but kept going towards the left wing rather than
setting up the drop goal.
In fairness we
did have two tries chalked off attacking the left but I
still find it bizarre that their seemed no thought towards
what I thought was blindly obvious, going for a drop goal.
It didn't matter in the end because Wigan saw out the time
well and overall, given the conditions, this was a good
start. Pre season was a bit of a mess but the lads actually
looked pretty fresh here. They worked hard for this win and
they'll be hoping to build on it away at Huddersfield next