You've got to give credit to Warrington, they came
and they conquered. They inflicted not only our heaviest loss since
Michael Maguire became coach but that was also our worst attacking
return during his reign as well. I'm not sure it should have been that much
of a surprise though. That was our seventh loss from our last twelve home
matches, a dire by anyone's standards let alone a side currently
holding the league title.
The list of
defeats says it all - Harlequins, St Helens, Warrington (x2),
Huddersfield, Leeds and St George-Illawarra. Take Harlequins out of
that list and it basically tells you straight that we've lost all
the big games against the big sides.
It's a bit unfathomable when you consider we
haven't lost away for over twelve months in Super League but it's
something we need to rectify fast because we cannot continue to
rely on winning games away from home. That away record will end at
some point and the pressure will be fully on that next week away at
So why did we lose? Well I do think luck
played it's part. Three no try video referee decisions against
Wigan showed that the match was far closer than the final 24-6
scoreline suggests. I'm not saying they were incorrect decisions (I
haven't seen replays yet) but we needed a bit of fortune and the
fact it never came just highlighted that this was Warrington's
A bigger factor in the loss was that
Warrington simply had far more composure. We gave them penalties
and errors to help them score and they punished us. They themselves
give us penalties or errors to score and we didn't even get close
because more often than not we knocked on. That was the game in a
This was highlighted just before half
time. We were getting control of the arm wrestle and had a couple
of opportunities to get over the line but wasted those chances.
Had we got to 12-12 at that point, the game would have been
completely difference and we've have had a great chance to win I
think. It's hard to chase down even a small score against a strong
defence if you don't take your chances, you only have to look back
at our last two matches before this one to see that.
What Warrington did really well was
take Sam Tomkins out of the game. Not by being dirty like Hull FC,
they just clamped down on him and gave him no room to breathe. I
know some are saying Brett Finch was poor and looking really rusty
but I actually liked the initial signs from him. He'll do well
here. That was a tough ask to give him his first match in 7 months
against a fired up Warrington side.
So if Sam
Tomkins is being hounded out of the contest and Brett Finch is
playing his first match for ages, surely it should be the other
half back, Thomas Leuluai, who steps up to take control? It
frustrates me because I've kept saying it in these reports over
quite a few years now that Leuluai, Grand Final aside, doesn't
perform in big matches.
I think part of
that is because I expect a scrum half to have more control but I
think these games really highlight that Tommy isn't a scrum half.
He's great with ball in hand but ask him to do a bit of kicking or
get us out of a hole when we are on the back foot and I'm really
not sure what he gives us. Yes I know he's a Grand Final, World Cup
and Four Nations winner but does that actually mean anything? I
mean Ricky Bibey has two Challenge Cup winners medals after all and
Richard Mathers (often bagged on our message boards) holds a Grand
Final medal and two Challenge Cup medals.
I'm sure those medals do mean something, and I'm
not bagging Tommy's overall ability, but simple stats sum him up
for me. At test level for New Zealand he's started in the halves 13
times for them and they won just 2 of those 13 games (one of those
wins was against Papua New Guinea). Starting at Hooker he's played
in 9 tests for New Zealand and they've won 6 of those 9 games (1
match drawn). Perhaps we just need to bite the bullet now Finch is
fit and get him and McIlorum alternating the hooking role?
All in all this was Warrington's night. I'm a
firm believer that you can earn luck playing sport and I think they
did that. They were more enthusiastic in defence and wanted the win
more. I didn't get to write a preview this week but had I done so
I'd have been pointing out how early season win's at Warrington and
St Helens were massive for us last year and gave us the belief we
could go on to be champions. Getting hold of top spot early was
huge as well because it left Warrington chasing and chasing us all
season and that, along with the Challenge Cup progress, contributed
to them pegging out physically at the back end of the season.
Fast forward twelve months and the roles have
reversed. Warrington have gained belief now that they can win the
title with early season wins at St Helens and now at Wigan and they
have control of first place. Having first place pretty much wrapped
up a month before the play offs took huge physical pressure off
us last year and Warrington now have a chance to do what we did.
Especially having fallen a game behind, it'll be a long haul to try
to chase them down. Like I said, this loss put's pressure on us now
to go and get a result at Leeds and looking at Warrington's next
few fixtures (Catalan, Huddersfield, Crusaders, Salford, Hull FC,
Bradford) it's hard to see where their next loss will come from.
It'll probably come when they least expect it but that fixture
lists highlights how much we will have to keep on winning in the
next few weeks.
Perhaps it's far too early in the
season to be talking like that and who knows Warrington may have
peaked to early. Only time will tell. Perhaps also first place
doesn't really matter. I do think last year Warrington spent too
much time looking towards chasing us down for first rather than
keeping third (St Helens for the most part) off their backs because
second place in this play off system rewards the same as first
place at the end of the day.
We've seen already
this season though that if we are to retain the title, Warrington
will probably have to be beaten at some point in the play offs.
They've done us twice under Maguire and actually when we did beat
them at Halliwell Jones last year I remain convinced we only did so
because Briers limped off the field. Maguire talks about big
lessons to be learn and that big lesson is how to create pressure
with kicks, if we find out how to do that then their is very little
difference between Wigan and Warrington. Anyway that's enough
rambling... I shall add the story of the match later on.