How ironic that we begin this season failing to beat 12 men after ending the previous season losing with 12 men but, regardless of the extra man, it was a basic failure of game management that cost us what would have been an excellent opening day victory.
After an hour, with Wigan leading 22-12, I was very pleased with how the game had gone. We’d score a couple of good tries and I was drawing great positives from the performances of Taulima Tautai and John Bateman in particular, but sadly it was spoiled by a poor end to the game from Wigan.
With ten minutes to go, doing the commentary on Wish FM, I said that it’d finish a draw because it was inevitable the way it unfolded. We made it too easy for Widnes by not completing sets and also perhaps not realising that a drop goal was all that was required. It doesn’t matter how you win, as long as you win.
I’ve seen fans on message boards drawing their own conclusions for the collapse but personally I’m not getting too worked up about it because it was the opening round. I think a lot of rust was on display that contributed to hindering Wigan and watching Saints v Catalan on Friday cemented that feeling.
That game at Langtree on Friday was a horrible watch and for Wigan on Thursday if Joe Burgess takes in a simple pass, rather than Joe Mellor returning it for a try, and Matty Bowen doesn’t pass 10 miles forward to a wide open Anthony Gelling then we probably win by 30 at least. I’d be worried if we are doing that in three or four weeks time but let’s see what this Friday brings before getting carried away by what happened at Widnes.
Like I said though, the positives came from Bateman and Tautai. What a classy bit of play from Bateman for the second try that Anthony Gelling scored. He’d already had two busts up the middle earlier in the game but having moved to centre, because of Josh Charnley’s departure, his jinking step to commit two defenders made what was a 50/50 attempt at a try in the corner into a simple finish for Gelling. It looked dumb initially for him to run towards the defenders but it proved to be a quality bit of play in the end.
I couldn’t have been more impressed by Tautai and his hunger for work. He made 29 tackles and 8.7 metres made per ball carry according to the stats on the Super League website. For a debut, that was a great benchmark to set him self, let’s hope he can produce similar every week!