|A good professional start to the season from Wigan saw them easily dispatch a poor Crusaders side, that at times struggled to make the half way line against an impressive Wigan defence.|
Having said that Wigan didn't get off to the best of starts after a fumbled kick off saw Crusaders immediately force a drop out. But the visiting attack was flat at best and Wigan easily saw out two consecutive sets on their line.
Once Wigan got the ball for the first time, they themselves went on the offensive and forced a drop out but a knock on from Pat Richards saw the attack come to nothing. Our next attack also ended with an error. The rustiness that was on display in the pre season clash at Warrington was still evident here early on.
Eventually though we began to control the territory and moments after Joel Tomkins had been held up over the line, Wigan took the lead on 16 minutes. A kick to the corner saw Amos Roberts out leap Gareth Raynor for the try. However, the touchline conversion proved too difficult for Pat Richards who hit the woodwork. 4-0 Wigan.
Crusaders had done well to restrict Wigan to 6 points after twenty minutes but the interchange bench proved too powerful for them to handle. Feka Paleaaesina and Andy Coley came on around the twenty minute mark with Coley making an immediate impact by scoring a try on 23 minutes. He had a simple crash over the line close to the posts and Richards conversion stretched the lead to 10-0.
Wigan were now dominating the opposition and should have gone further ahead on 28 minutes. They had a clear overlap down the left hand side but Sam Tomkins chose the wrong option and kicked when a pass would have got either George Carmont or Pat Richards over. Despite being a poor kick they did win a drop out which led to our next score.
This time Martin Gleeson walked over close to the line. He was sent in on the right hand side, with another two men spare on his outside. Easy, easy try. Richards converted to make it 16-0 after half an hour.
Soon after we scored again. Nice kick from Cameron Phelps to the left corner was easily touched down by Richards but he couldn't covert off the sideline. 20-0 after 34 minutes. Whilst that try was being scored, Paul Deacon came onto the field to make his debut.
At this point I went downstairs for my half time pint and I was genuinely thinking quietly that we could nil Crusaders tonight, they were that poor. But a strange referee decision close to half time allowed them to get on the score sheet. Getting a penalty twenty metres out they swung the ball towards the right wing and Luke Dyer squeezed in the corner. Nice try. Michael Witt converted off the touchline to make the half time score very flattering for the visitors at 20 points to 6. Wigan did get another chance to score before the break but knocked on over the line.
Into the second half and Wigan immediately went on the offensive, winning the ball from their own kick off. But Crusaders survived five attempts on their line by Wigan before finally being breached.
The try came on 52 minutes. Deacon put in a nice kick towards the posts and Cameron Phelps leaped like a gazelle to beat Lincoln Withers in the air and touch down under the sticks. Easy conversion from Pat made it 26-6 and ended the contest.
Wigan's defence was so much on top, the Crusaders were struggling to get close to half way. A ball steal penalty finally got them into the Wigan half on 55 minutes but nothing came of the attack.
Wigan would increase their lead on 57 minutes. Amos Roberts collected the ball about 45 metres out on the right wing and he went on a lovely solo run all the way to the line. Nice pace against albeit point defence. We never saw anything like that in the whole of last season from him. Pat's conversion made it 32-6.
Again Crusaders struggled for go forward, but back to back penalties on 63 minutes got them on a rare attack on the the Wigan line but we defended out two sets easily.
Soon after that Wigan scored their seventh and final try of the night. Sam Tomkins sent Lee Mossop over from close range and the conversion made it 38-6.
Now I was thinking Crusaders would collapse at this point like last week against Leeds. They had defended so much during the game I thought tiredness would get to them, but to their credit they hung in to deny Wigan any further scores.
In fact they finished the game the stronger after finally managing to get into the Wigan half without the aid of the referee's whistle. The broke clear down the middle and almost scored but Phelps just got back to deny them. A penalty was awarded to Crusaders but Wigan survived two sets on their line to ensure the score remained at 38-6.
So in summary a good nights work. Bigger tests to come for sure but defensively we look a pretty solid unit and in attack we did a good professional job without ever needing to step up into the higher gears. Should be a cracker next week against Hull KR.
A final thought - much better on the beer front tonight. The half time pint pulling was a vast improvement and when I went in the South Bar I eventually found a new and improved can bar. Although they could have warned that they had moved it!!!