This performance was not pretty but far more
like it from Wigan. The whole game was a massive midfield war of
endurance but our defence was pretty strong for the most part.
Wigan made several changes to their line up.
Josh Charnley replaced Darrell Goulding on the right wing whilst
Joel Tomkins switched back from second row to right centre in place
of Stefan Marsh. Paul Deacon made a welcome return at Stand Off,
with Brett Finch dropping down to the bench, and Jeff Lima and Liam
Farrell both returned to boost the pack.
The fact it took 17 minutes before the opening
score came highlighted how much of a defensive battle this was. I
think first score was always going to be crucial and Joel Tomkins
claimed it, punishing an error from Scott Murrell close to his own
line. They just swung it right and Sean O'Loughlin's pass allowed
Joel to take advantage of the overlap. Pat couldn't convert - 4-0.
Soon after Wigan went in again. This time Ryan
Hoffman scored from close range and Pat Richards converted to make
it 10-0 after 22 minutes but Rovers soon responded after a Wigan
error in their own quarter. Matt Cook claimed the try, scored
towards the right corner. Scott Murrell converted to make it 10-6.
Now what Wigan did well for the rest of the game
was that every time Rovers claimed a hard fought try, within four
minutes we'd re-established a two score lead. The response to the
Matt Cook try came from a familiar routine. It worked so well at
the back end of last season with the full back, stand off and scrum
half all combining towards the right centre/wing combination. It
doesn't matter what order they combine, the routine just seemingly
works every time.
Brett Finch had come into the half back role,
whilst Tommy had replaced McIlorum at dummy half, so it was he who
combined with Sam Tomkins and Paul Deacon to get the ball to right
centre Joel Tomkins. His pass sent Josh Charnley angling at the
right corner and he just had to much pace for full back Ben
Cockayne. Pat Richards conversion made it 16-6 and that was a
perfect tonic to take us into half time.
Having said that, two Rovers errors gave Wigan
great opportunities to extend that lead just before the break but
Wigan couldn't take advantage. By now the rain which had been
threatening all night finally came but thankfully it wasn't enough
to get us soaked in the open away stand. It was pretty much gone by
the time the teams returned.
Now if you look back on recent trips to Craven
Park they've all followed the same pattern. Wigan build a first
half lead, Rovers get bollocked at half time and come out strong
after the restart but Wigan still win anyway. So it perhaps should
not have been much of a surprise to see Rovers claim the first try
after half time.
Willie Mason scored it with a close range barge
over but crucially perhaps, Scott Murrell failed to convert. 16-12
would have put a lot of sweat on Wigan but 16-10 relieved the
Then again you relieve your own pressure with a
quick response don't you and it came from a trademark Thomas
Leuluai effort. He loves to scoot towards the line from ten metres
out and spinning out the tackles he crashed down for a big four
pointer. Pat converted to make it 22-10 with 33 minutes to go.
Defences were so on top this really was a big
two score lead but I do think Wigan should have just been a bit
more clever and just kicked a bloody drop goal to end the contest.
They had opportunities but kept going wide.
A drop goal would certainly have helped when
Rovers hit back on 65 minutes. They had broke well up the left wing
but I think it was Joel who chased back with a superb tackle.
Didn't really matter because Ben Cockayne soon crashed over from
close range, Murrell's conversion making it 22-16.
The Rovers fans sensed they now had a big chance
but a massive moment in the end result came at the restart. It was
bang in front of us. Pat Richards put in a superb well hung kick
off that was aimed direct at the crossbar. It didn't hit it but the
ball had to be taken in the in goal and although the Rovers
attacker did get two metres beyond the try line, a wall of four
Wigan defenders, led by Sean O'Loughlin, barrelled him back over
the line for a drop out.
Then from the drop out Rovers conceded a penalty
which was an easy "take the two" decision. Simple kick from pretty
much in front and 24-16 was game over on a night like this, even
though 12 minutes remained.
In the end Wigan claimed a cherry on top of the
cake try in the 77th minute. Going left they found an overlap with
George Carmont scoring in the corner. Pat's conversion missed but
it didn't really matter - 28-16 was the final score.
So in summary - a good professional performance
by Wigan. They didn't really flow in attack but they weren't
allowed to by Hull KR. We ground out a good win and our kicking
game was much improved. Not just from Deacon either, Sam Tomkins
put in two excellent kicks in the second half that pinned Rovers
well back, one of them was actually a 40/20 in the last minute.
This victory extends our unbeaten run away from
DW Stadium to 20 matches (including neutral venues). It's a run
that makes our current home form all the more laughable but I'll
take all those home game struggles if it means we beat the enemy
next Good Friday!
Post Match confirmation of Michael Maguire's
departure at the end of the season has to be welcomed as well. Of
course I'd much prefer he was staying a decision either way needed
to happen sooner rather than later. We can finally move on and I
hope this win proves to be the kick start our so far stuttering
Finally that was another great following from
the Wigan fans. "Best following of the season" says a Rovers fan on
our message board, not bad for a Friday night trip. Although the
"Ultra's" section can piss off after the "Bilko is a Wanker" chant
that I got when I walked past during the first half - haha!
ps Jeff Lima incident right on the hooter. Really didn't see what
caused that bust up so can't really comment.