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|Friday 7th June 2013|
|Widnes Vikings 32 Wigan Warriors 33|
|Select Security Stadium Halton, Widnes|
|Super League 18 - Round 18 of 27|
Kick Off 8:00pm
|35||Lewis Tierney||T||7||Rhys Hanbury||T|
|2||Josh Charnley||T||G4||5||Patrick Ah Van||T3|
|3||Darrell Goulding||2||Willie Isa|
|17||Iain Thornley||15||Chris Dean|
|22||Anthony Gelling||T2||26||Jack Owens||G4|
|24||Sam Powell||DG||21||Danny Craven|
|31||George Williams||14||Joe Mellor|
|8||Epalahame Lauaki||16||Eamon O'Carroll|
|23||Logan Tomkins||T||9||Jon Clarke|
|10||Lee Mossop||10||Steve Pickersgill|
|11||Harrison Hansen||11||Frank Winterstein||T|
|16||Chris Tuson||12||Dave Allen|
|29||Greg Burke||13||Hep Cahill|
|4||Jack Hughes||17||Ben Kavanagh|
|21||Scott Taylor||T||18||Lloyd White|
|26||Dom Crosby||24||MacGraff Leuluai|
|32||Ryan Hampshire||29||Adam Lawton||T|
What a night for the Wigan Rugby League club. Sam Tomkins, Pat Richards, Blake Green, Matty Smith, Mike McIlorum, Sean O'Loughlin, Liam Farrell and Ben Flower all absent yet we still find a way to claim a fantastic victory away at Widnes.
Personally I think the spine of a team, to use old fashioned numbering, is the 1, 6, 7, 9 and 13 positions and then you build everything else around those players. To have all of that spine absent yet still cope well is damn impressive.
To cover those absences - Lewis Tierney was given a debut at full back whilst Ryan Hampshire also got a debut off the bench. Sam Powell and George Williams were the starting half backs with Logan Tomkins at hooker and Greg Burke at Loose Forward. Anthony Gelling also made a surprise return on the left wing vacated by Pat.
So for this clash the average age of the Wigan team was just 21.8. This compares to an average age of 28.7 for the Warrington team that played at London on Saturday.
Those age stats should be telling you that the future is very bright here at Wigan, even if a certain Sam Tomkins decides to leave at the end of the season. OK one swallow doesn't make a summer but you got a glimpse in this match of the talent that lies beneath in our Under 19s at the moment.
Warrington meanwhile had nine players age 31 or higher playing for them at London and Leeds two main props, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai, are both age 35.
Now that experience may count for a lot come the back end of the season again, only time will tell, but eventually they are going to have to be replaced. Warrington especially have a hell of a lot of work to do. They could go down the "throw the kids" in route but St Helens are proving that it's not that simple.
Wigan meanwhile chuck the kids in and they are responding to the challenge because they are so well mentally prepared. Rather than fretting about Sam possibly leaving, you should actually be purring about what's going on at Wigan at the moment. The other big sides have plenty of holes to fill in their squads during the next two to three years, we are way ahead and already competing at top level by being way ahead.
I think we've already seen this year the effects of that. Warrington had been deemed to have been below recent par earlier this year but are now bucking up. Is that because they had both Lee Briers and Adrian Morley absent and the return to hot form is because both are back? Similarly Leeds struggled, for results at least, in Jamie Peacock's recent absence. Experience does count for a lot clearly but Wigan are getting a young side building a massive amount of experience, those two sides have still to do that!
Now the match itself. Well it wasn't pretty at times and had Widnes scored when they led at 26-22, we would have lost it was as simple as that. However those youngsters will have learned a great deal from this experience.
I stressed during my Wish FM commentary summarising that their would be times during this game in which they would just simply have to hang in for a spell of pressure and that came midway during the second half. They created a lot of that pressure themselves but withstood about 10 minutes of it before pushing on to win the match. That showed massive character!
I think it has to be pointed out that Widnes had key absences also. Shaun Briscoe, Cameron Phelps, Stefan Marsh, Kevin Brown, Ben Cross and Gareth Hock were missing for them, and all ex Wigan to boot. In fact overall 19 ex Wigan academy players started in this game.
What Wigan needed to do was come out full of vigour and intensity. I felt that, despite going 10-0 ahead, at Wakefield we started the match really slowly. Here we were full of it with a great pack effort from opening props Eric Lauaki and Lee Mossop, whilst Harrison Hansen was a beast in the back row all night.
That intensity led to Wigan taking the lead with their first possession. A "back to one" helped but Logan Tomkins darted over from nine metres to score by the posts. Josh Charnley converted easily for 6-0.
Widnes though responded with a try on 7 minutes. Greg Burke penalised for lying on in the tackle and a great pass from Rhys Hanbury got Patrick Ah Van over in the corner. Charnley was left flapping in defence, a pattern which continued for much of the night. Jack Owens conversion missed, so Wigan still led 6-4.
Wigan though hit back and were well on top for the next 15 minutes or so. They scored twice during this spell. First a penalty conceded by Willie Isa in the 14th minute was punished when Iain Thornley's offload got Lewis Tierney in the left corner for a debut try. Charnley then nailed a touchline conversion for 12-4.
Then on 22 minutes, Williams spotted huge space over on the left side again and despite it only being the second tackle, he put the kick to the corner and Gelling won the leap to the ball for the try. Charnley missed the conversion leaving the score at 16-4.
I felt Wigan lost a bit of edge once the first interchanges came into effect. Dom Crosby, Scott Taylor and Jack Hughes came on to replace Burke, Mossop and Lauaki over a period of 10 minutes and Widnes were the side on top up to half time.
They scored twice. First on 27 mintues, Hanbury broke through missed tackles on half way and sent the supporting Adam Lawton over near the posts. Then two minutes before half time Frank Winterstein scored after Hanbury had kicked into space and Owens had collected well and quickly offloaded. Two conversions from Owens made it 16 all the break.
I was a little bit gutted for Wigan that they went in level but they came out strong again second half. Except for Darrell Goulding who missed the rest of the game with apparent illness. Jack Hughes had to fill in at centre.
Wigan scored quickly with Charnley claiming a blinder. He took a pass one metre from his own line, out stepped Steve Pickersgill and then raced the 99 metres left for the score. Doing the Wish FM commentary I was sat in a position that was about 75 metres to go and by the time he had reached level with us you knew he wasn't going to be stopped. Hanbury started level with him but looked like he had legs in wet cement compared to Josh. Easy conversion made it 22-16 to us again.
The home side were determined to keep going with us toe to toe and hit back again on 49 minutes with a try from the impressive Hanbury. Iain Thornley's defence continues to be a worry for me though. He failed to wrap Dave Allen up and then his departed space was what Hanbury scored through. Owens converted to level up at 22-22.
Then came a huge swing that for a long time was looking massive in terms of the end result. A no try decision went against Hansen after Logan Tomkins had been deemed to have knocked on. Now it was totally the correct decision for me but the bounce up of the ball off his thigh was so unlucky.
After the video referee deliberation, it was only 54 seconds later Widnes were up the other end to take the lead for the first time in the match with Hanbury again the provider to get Ah Van over. Conversion was missed but the lead was now with the home side at 26-22.
This was the spell now in which Wigan had to hang in. four separate errors from Gelling, Lauaki, Charnley and Hughes gave the home side the chances but they didn't take any of them. Like I said had they scored here I think that would have been game over. Ah Van went closest but just couldn't keep in the field of play trying to score in the corner.
Like the Logan no try, this Ah Van no try decision was a big momentum swinger also because just over a minute after it Wigan had scored up the other end. Tierney's pass got Thornley bursting down the left and he timed his offload perfectly to get Gelling over for his second. It was handed on to the video ref and after almost three minutes of deliberation, he gave the try and the scores were now level again at 26 all after Charnley failed with the extras.
One thing Wigan had done during that spell under the pump was throw back on Scott Taylor whilst also bringing on Ryan "Rocky" Hampshire for George Williams. This turned into a masterstroke because they provided great and much needed energy during this final spell.
Rocky didn't really do anything special but he had plenty of buzz about him and that I felt put off the tired defenders in front of him. It was so pleasing on 71 minutes to see the youngsters all around to convert what proved to be a vital drop goal.
Tierney was in at the play the ball and it was good to see Logan not pushing the youngster away from that like some hookers would do. Tierney gave the ball to Sam Powell and he nailed the drop goal from 39 metres, which put Wigan back ahead at 27-26.
Wigan were now not making errors and managed to back that drop goal up with a match clinching try. An error from Ah Van near his own line provided the chance and Powell was again at the heart of it. He beat a missed tackle from Hep Cahill, half out stepped Dave Allen, then offloaded perfectly to get Taylor under the posts. What a time for him to claim the first try of his Wigan career and well deserved. He was massive in this final quarter. Easy conversion from Charnley made it 33-26.
A two score lead and the clock was now Wigan's friend. Only 4 minutes and 17 seconds remained when Widnes had failed with a short kick off but Widnes had not given up when they got the ball back. That man Hanbury again, almost a one man attack for the Vikings, broke clear down the left and hacked the ball on for everyone to chase. If the bounce of the ball had gone for him, he was in under the posts but the bounce fell to Jack Hughes.
Wrap the ball up now for a full set and this game was dusted, but Hughes almost got the lesson of his life. He knocked on and was punished with Ah Van touching down a Lloyd White kick to claim his hat-trick try.
A quickly taken touchline conversion from Owens made it 33-32 to Wigan but they still had 1 minute and 20 seconds left on the clock. Wigan snatching defeat from the jaws of victory was looking ominous, especially when White had made a half break down the left side again. Hampshire it was who scrambled back to tackle him but Widnes were now in drop goal range to try for the draw. Instead however they seemed to get caught in two minds and tried a kick towards Ah Van which was never on and trickled into touch.
Such waste but what a relief for us Wigan fans. The clock ran out and Wigan had kind of hung on in the end. It was a deserved victory I felt though and one that showed such immense character. Great effort. Much as we saw a quality effort from captain for the night Harrison Hansen, it was the youngsters Powell, Tierney, Hampshire, Logan Tomkins and Taylor in the middle of the park that were all massive in that last period of the game. Delighted to see that. This young squad as a whole will have plenty of small margins to learn from......but what a result! And Huddersfield losing at Hull KR just made it all the more sweeter because we now are five points clear at the top of Super League.
Super League 18 - Round 18 Results
|Fri 7 June||Hull Kingston Rovers 35 Huddersfield Giants 28||6,963|
|Fri 7 June||Leeds Rhinos 42 Castleford Tigers 24||17,035|
|Fri 7 June||Widnes Vikings 32 Wigan Warriors 33||6,528|
|Sat 8 June||London Broncos 10 Warrington Wolves 82||3,041|
|Sat 8 June||Catalan Dragons 30 Hull FC 4||8,105|
|Sun 9 June||St Helens 30 Bradford Bulls 18||11,385|
|Mon 10 June||Salford City Reds 10 Wakefield Wildcats 46||2,327|
Super League 18 Table - After This Round
|7||Hull Kingston Rovers||18||9||0||9||466||534||-68||18|
|13||Salford City Reds||18||4||1||13||281||657||-376||9|
Top Eight Qualify for the Play Offs