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|Friday 25th March 2011|
|Wigan Warriors 6 Warrington Wolves 24|
|DW Stadium, Wigan|
|Engage Super League 16 - Round 7 of 27|
Kick Off 8:00pm
|1||Sam Tomkins||1||Brett Hodgson||G4|
|2||Darrell Goulding||5||Joel Monaghan|
|24||Stefan Marsh||3||Matty Blythe||T|
|4||George Carmont||4||Chris Bridge|
|25||Josh Charnley||G||24||Rhys Evans|
|17||Brett Finch||T||6||Lee Briers|
|7||Thomas Leuluai||7||Richard Myler||T|
|10||Andy Coley||8||Adrian Morley|
|9||Michael McIlorum||9||Michael Monaghan||T2|
|14||Paul Prescott||10||Garreth Carvell|
|11||Harrison Hansen||17||Simon Grix|
|16||Ryan Hoffman||12||Ben Westwood|
|13||Sean O'Loughlin||13||Ben Harrison|
|15||Jeff Lima||14||Mick Higham|
|19||Amos Roberts||15||Jon Clarke|
|21||Lee Mossop||16||Paul Wood|
|23||Chris Tuson||26||David Solomona|
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 Leeds.
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 night.
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 nutshell.
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.
Super League 16 - Round 7 Results
|Fri 25 Mar||St Helens 28 Bradford Bulls 16||7,676|
|Fri 25 Mar||Wigan Warriors 6 Warrington Wolves 14||21,056|
|Sat 26 Mar||Catalan Dragons 10 Salford City Reds 22||7,156|
|Sat 26 Mar||Hull Kingston Rovers 16 Huddersfield Giants 38||7,502|
|Sun 27 Mar||Harlequins 30 Hull FC 40||3,052|
|Sun 27 Mar||Castleford Tigers 56 Crusaders 16||6,030|
|Sun 27 Mar||Wakefield Wildcats 6 Leeds Rhinos 28||8,763|
Engage Super League 16 Table - After This Round
|9||Salford City Reds||7||3||0||4||150||210||-60||6|
|11||Hull Kingston Rovers||7||2||0||5||162||198||-36||4|
*Crusaders and Wakefield both deducted 4 points for entering administration.