The 18th Man column: Cas’ defence is worse in Super League

Josh Charnley scored the only try in a 7-0 win at Widnes
Josh Charnley scored the only try in a 7-0 win at Widnes

Four fans have their say on Wigan’s 7-0 win at Widnes, their Challenge Cup prospects and the burning issues...

You remember the old days of BBC Grandstand when a football team scored 7 and they would put [SEVEN] on the old vidi-printer to emphasise someone had got a right good hammering?

Well in Rugby League a 7-0 victory is more incredulity the other way.

You don’t ever expect to win with so few points but alas we did just that at Widnes last Thursday.

In fact, it was Wigan’s lowest-scoring victory since a 6-4 Challenge Cup success at Hull KR in 1990.

It’s fair to say I’ve mentioned our stuttering attack a few times this season, and with that score you probably would expect me to go on about it again. But I actually thought it was a good win and would rather praise the superb defensive effort.

Wigan at Widnes were without 9 [NINE] players who have played for England during their careers.

Most sides losing that amount of talent would be struggling desperately to avoid a good hiding if truth be told.

Widnes may not have played well but Wigan’s desire to defend was outstanding.

The last-ditch tackle by Ben Flower; the last-ditch tackle by Josh Charnley; a one-on-one ball strip to stop a break by Charnley that reminded me of the effort on Jamie Shaul at Wembley in 2013; the chase back on Patrick Ah Van by Joe Bretherton; four wonderful tackles in the last 20 minutes by Dom Manfredi.

I could go on but that desire earned a result that perhaps we had no right to earn given the strength of our line-up.

After the awful away displays of 2015, it’s been a pleasure to watch us win five away in a row. But all the momentum will come to a shuddering halt if we don’t progress in the cup this weekend.

The match is a repeat of the quarter-final of 2014 when Castleford won 16-4.

Daryl Powell’s side will fancy themselves again, but the question I’m asking myself is whether Cas can repeat the defensive effort from that day?

I think to beat Wigan they’ll have to beat us with defence rather than attack, but Cas this year are conceding 28 points on average per match – the worst in Super League.

In fact, they’ve almost already conceded as many points in the league already this year than they did in that entire 2014 season when they knocked us out the cup on the way to reaching Wembley and almost finished top of the pile.

If Wigan’s defence is strong, which is has been for a lot of this season, I’m confident.

Bilko

My star man at Widnes was Josh Charnley, who was solid throughout in both attack and defence. Everyone seems to notice the finishing and points on the board, but Charnley’s strength and commitment in supporting his team will be sorely missed next year. How often do we see him taking the hard carries from within his own 10-metre line and making more yards than the forwards?

Not to mention the natural instinct he has in defence as he shuts down so many attacking moves. I was so very sorry to hear of his exit and hope he rips RU apart, but it leaves a huge question as to his successor.

Young Joe Burgess has re-signed for three years after his head was turned by the bright lights of the NRL. I can’t help but feel Wigan is perhaps a safe option for his return to blighty so he can settle and make a name for himself, build some confidence and perhaps follow Josh to the other code. One thing for sure is that he has big shoes to fill if he is to plug the hole Josh leaves, and I hope he can pick up the challenge and do well.

Next up is a trap -door test against Castleford. The Challenge Cup and Wigan go together, but to progress we will need to be more structured in our play.

Darren Wrudd

A couple of weeks ago, Wigan’s injury list looked to be receding with only long-term absentees Tony Clubb and Mike McIlorum, along with Liam Farrell and Sean O’Loughlin, but once again the bodies are mounting up in the treatment room.

George Williams pulled up on Thursday, which meant a late debut for Jake Shorrocks. To be fair he acquitted himself brilliantly, but was helped out by Matty Smith’s leadership on the pitch. Smith has had his fair share of criticism but since the timely return of Williams and Sam Tomkins, you can see his confidence growing and it’s as though the weight of carrying the team has been lifted and he can concentrate on kicking and steering the team round the pitch. Even his goalkicking stats seem to have improved.

Next week sees the distraction of the Challenge Cup, and Castleford come to town. If Wigan can recreate the Widnes defensive effort they will be difficult to beat. Finally, some great news out of the Wigan camp sees Joe Burgess return to the Warriors for 2017 as a replacement for Josh Charnley. Wigan constantly get derided for losing players to the NRL/RU but it’s amazing how many return. Burgess and Manfredi on the wings next season already looks a mouthwatering prospect.

David Bailey

We’re a club in crisis...well, according to every other Super League club. Personally, I think the club handled the off-field incident excellently. There was no bowing to supporters or the media and it was all dealt with in-house. The management team take a bow – it’s not all about the supporters knowing every little blip. Anyhow on to the game once again, and we were missing nine players at Widnes yet in came the kids – Gildart man of the match, Bretherton worked his socks off, Gregson never stopped, Shorrocks outstanding. This club is definitely in safe hands. Matty Smith showed what a leader he is, once again getting us over the line with his leadership and his third match-winning drop goal. To come away with our fifth win on the road speaks volumes for the team. The re-signing of Joe Burgess was more good news, and perhaps now the fans will give Waney and Wigan the praise they deserve. Best of luck in next week’s cup game, and another test of our character.

Joe Charnock