Well I've got to be honest
even without Gareth Hock, Sam Tomkins and Sean O'Loughlin (called
up to the England test side to play France the same night) I
expected Wigan to turn up at Brewery Field and run them ragged
whilst earning a comfortable victory but what we saw was a poor
effort against a spirited Welsh side.
I make that the eighth
time this season Wigan have lost a match after being within a try
of being able to win going into the final stages of the game. This
defeat was particularly galling though against a Celtic side with
only 1 win prior to this match.
When we got back from 16-6 to 16 all we should have gone on to
win but like so many times this campaign we just don't have the
composure in pressure situations.
The half backs have to take the blame for that. Tim Smith was
poor and Leuluai doesn't do enough for me. The kicking game
continues to be lacklustre. We just don't have the craft, guile or
composure in those pressure situations and coach Noble has to take
the blame for that. He signed these players after all.
It's not only the backs, our pack was easily defeated. Joel
Tomkins had an excellent end to last season but has been average
this year. Mark Riddell continues to look like a fish out of
water. In truth the whole set of backs just were not good enough.
Our go forward was poor.
The home side were well up for this one though. Wigan's glory
days may be a thing of the past but nationally we are still the
biggest name in the game and new sides lift when they play us at
home. This was not the first time a new franchise has humbled us
as defeats to Fulham (1980), Paris (1997 although we beat them in
1996), Gateshead (1999) and Catalans (2006) testify.
The welsh had severe injury problems to contend with as
Australian imports Tony Duggan, Josh Hannay and Marshall Chalk
were all absent but it didn't seem to bother them too much.
It's been a bug of mine that Wigan have started matches far too
slow in the last couple of seasons but not this year. Over 50% of
our tries this season have been scored in the opening twenty
minutes! And again we started well in this match with Shaun
Ainscough, returning to the wing after missing the two games
against Salford, going close but Luke Dyer denied him with a
superb try saving tackle. It was all Wigan first ten minutes but
our failure to score seemed to give the Crusaders confidence,
which grew when they took the lead in the 15th minute.
A breakaway down the left by Mark Lennon was supported by Peter
Lupton who sent Jace Van Dijk over for the score. Tim Smith old defensive woes have returned
I'm afraid. Lennon broke straight
through him and Amos Roberts for that break. He also converted the
try to make it 6-0.
Wigan soon hit back. A kick from Leuluai deflected kindly off
Mark Dalle Cort for Harrison Hansen to easily touch down. Pat
Richards converted to level the scores.
Celtic regained the lead though seven minutes before the
oranges as Van Dijk again showed Tim Smith's awful defence. Smith
was stood on the wing and absolutely nowhere as Van Dijk's kick
over the top was collected by substitute Peter Lupton. He rounded
off nearer the sticks so Lennon's conversion was much easier and
12-6 was how it remained until the break.
Into the second half and the Crusaders extended that lead. Van
Dijk was showing our half backs how to play. He went probing from
dummy half and got the ball out wide to Dalle Cort who went
through more embarrassing defence, this time from Shaun Ainscough
and Harrison Hansen. They both went far too high. Lennon couldn't
convert off the sideline though so it was 16-6.
Wigan have been in the position of chasing games in the second
half so often this season it was no surprise to see us doing it
again. Equally no surprise to see us come back and then still lose
- it's the Wigan 2009 "how we lose" text book.
First on the hour from a scrum base Smith found Leuluai who
found Cameron Phelps and he had two men on him as he crashed over.
Not the best defence to be fair but the try was converted by Pat
making it 16-10.
Then on 69 minutes it was Smith and Leuluai again who combined
to get us over. Ball in hand these two prove to be useful players
but like I said my bug with them is our kicking game, or lack of.
The Celtic defence fell for a dummy towards Feka by Smith and he
got the ball out wide to send Amos Roberts in the corner.
Crucially perhaps, Pat couldn't convert this but now it was 16 all
with ten to go and we all really expected Wigan to win.
Discipline had been superb during the game which meant easy
yardage was hard to come by. In fact I believe
the first half didn't see a single penalty from either side (even
more remarkable because Ganson was the ref) and Wigan only
conceded two all game. But it was a dreadful knock on from Feka ten
metres from our line that gifted Celtic the chance to win the game.
The pressure on the line soon told as they again targeted Tim
Smith out wide and again he failed to defend. I really don't like
criticising individuals but his defence is embarrassing. Watch the
tape, three tries all down to his poor defence for me. He just
can't do it. Lupton claimed his second by running straight through
him and, I think, Martin Gleeson it was as well. The
conversion was kicked given Celtic a 6 point lead again to which
they held on to dearly for the final 4 minutes.
Have to say they thoroughly deserved it. Excellent effort. For
Wigan, well we have a week off to reflect now and it looks like
we've a massive battle on just to make the play offs. Very poor!
On the weekend itself I have to say I enjoyed visiting a new
place. The ground wasn't that bad I thought. The sideline terrace
I stood up was superb and the bar at the back was a nice touch.
Not so sure about the "portaloo" toilets though. Excellent pub
(The Riverside) next door as well but the fact the sun was out
allowing the hoards of Wigan fans to congregate in the car parks
did help massively.
You got the feeling though that the town of Bridgend isn't
exactly embracing this new side. One local asked a mate of mine
what the score was and his amazed response was "what?????? Bridgend
beat Wigan?" - they don't even know the name of the side.
Another amazingly asked if "Martin Offiah still played for Wigan?".
Knowledgeable about the game they are not! In the
conservative club I was met by a couple of locals droning on about
Union this and Union that but in truth by this point I was getting
too pissed to argue with them. I also don't recall seeing a Celtic
shirt anywhere around town (apart from in the ground itself).
Overall though I found the place nice and friendly. Just a shame
about the result.