Five things we learned from the Grand Final

Matty Bowen (centre) and the Wigan players leave the pitch on Saturday
Matty Bowen (centre) and the Wigan players leave the pitch on Saturday
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MATTY Bowen didn’t get the domestic silverware he craved, but he can leave Super League confident in the knowledge he will be fondly remembered by the Wigan’s faithful.

His wife gave birth to their third child the night before the game, but still he played – and how well did he play?!

His all-round performance was outstanding, his solo try magnificent, his goal-kicking flawless.

Had Wigan won the game, he would surely have landed the Harry Sunderland Trophy as man of the match, just ahead of Liam Farrell or George Williams. Sean O’Loughlin also had his moments, Ben Flower and Dom Crosby were strong, and what about Micky McIlorum’s try-saving tackle on Adam Cuthbertson late on?

*****

ROBBED? No.

How the video referees didn’t see a knock-on by Danny McGuire in the build-up to Joel Moon’s try baffled many.

And given the game was settled by two-points, it obviously had an impact.

But to the credit of the Wigan players, they didn’t blame the defeat on that decision – even though many were angry about it.

This was the latest in a string of controversial decisions by video referees, and perhaps RFL chiefs need to look at returning to the previous system - when a referee sent the decision upstairs without having to take a guess at what they think.

This current model seems flawed; by referring a decision ‘upstairs’, a ref is effectively admitting he doesn’t know what went on – so why ask him to make a ‘try’ or ‘no try’ call?

Why not just let the men with HD, multi-angle, super slow-mo and freeze-frame shots at their finger tips make the decision?

*****

IN the same city and on the same night as England’s rugby union squad ended their dismal World Cup campaign, league chiefs prayed for a thrilling Grand Final – and they got it.

The seesawing scoreline, the exhibitions of skill, the hits, the misses, the fightback, the fairytales.

Even the errors and blemishes – Tony Clubb’s sliced kick which went backwards – added to the drama.

Neutrals must have loved it. Without eclipsing the NRL decider, this game was arguably the most entertaining since Super League introduced the Grand Final in

1998.

*****

FAIR play, Leeds. To win a treble is an impressive feat, and they deserve congratulations for their clean-sweep of trophies.

They dug deep when it mattered, and showed class and composure when it was needed.

Even the most one-eyed Wigan fan will acknowledge the impact Kylie Leuluai, Kevin Sinfield and, especially, Jamie Peacock have had on Super League.

They got the fairytale finish they wanted.

Whisper it quietly... but they will be big boots to fill in 2016.

*****

IF silverware if your only measure of success, then the season has been a failure.

Not just for Wigan, but for every club other than Leeds.

But think bigger, use different gauges, and Wigan can take many positives from 2016.

Shaun Wane has guided them to three successive Grand Finals, despite a high turnover of players.

He has given homegrown players a chance (11 academy-products were in the 17 last night), resisted the outside calls to look to the NRL (Bowen was their only overseas player) and developed youngsters such as George Williams, John Bateman, Joe Burgess and Oliver Gildart.

Burgess is leaving but the others will surely serve Wigan well for years to come.

And the older heads like

Liam Farrell and Micky McIlorum are still in their mid-20s.

It’s easy rhetoric to say ‘We’ll come back stronger’ after a defeat... but in Wigan’s case, it’s hard not to see how they won’t.