Salford 16 Wigan 26

Wigan players celebrate their win over Salford on Saturday
Wigan players celebrate their win over Salford on Saturday

Oliver Gildart struck twice during a dominant first-half display to ensure Wigan opened their Super League defence with a convincing win at Salford.

Joe Burgess scored a try on his return from the NRL, and Joel Tomkins in his comeback from injury, during a one-sided opening half, which Wigan led 26-0.

But they failed to score any more points after the break, and Salford rallied to score three tries and add some respectability to the scoreline, even if the outcome was never really in doubt.

The win, on a biting cold afternoon, ensures they head into next weekend’s World Club Challenge against Cronulla on the back of a win - even if the manner was patchy.

Though Wigan finished the game on the back-foot, they scored at regular intervals through the opening half, with Morgan Escare kicking three goals from five attemps.

John Bateman missed the game as a precaution with a back spasm to ensure he is fit for next week’s World Club Challenge, while Joel Tomkins and Tony Clubb returned from long injury lay-offs.

As expected, Escare started at full-back and Burgess and Thomas Leuluai, back at the club following spells in the NRL, were in the starting line-up.

Salford, still without star recruit Todd Carney as he waits for a work visa, had ex-Warrior Lee Mossop in their starting line-up.

Gildart scored the Warriors’ first try of the campaign in the third minute - though it was one which would surely have gone to the video referee if this match was televised!

Sean O’Loughlin teased a kick into the ingoal, and Burgess dived over the touch-ingoal line and tapped the ball back inside for his centre to score. Escare was off-target with his first attempt.

The game settled into a ‘you-go, we-go’ arm-wrestle for a spell, and Mossop’s break helped give Salford a chance to reply but their move broke down. Their cause wasn’t helped when Junior Sa’u left the action from an Anthony Gelling tackle which was placed on report by referee Ben Thaler.

Robrt Lui also left the action moments later with a head knock, though both soon returned.

In their absence, Wigan powered ahead, Burgess showing some finesse to chase an angled Williams grubber. Escare added the conversion, and with the ball showed flashes of elusive running around the ruck.

Wigan were quick, and in-sync, as they hit a golden-patch before the break. They pressed home their advantage with a stylish Gildart effort featuring a an exchange of passes with Liam Farrell. In the build-up, it was encouragig to see Clubb back in the mix following his nine-month lay-off with a serious neck injury.

Before half-time, Salford went close to responding but Justin Carney was forced into touch, a missed-chance which felt amplified by Joel Tomkins’ short-range try on the brink of the break to make it 26-0 in their favour.

Early in the second-half, Kris Brinning punished a napping marker defence to reduce the defecit, a try converted by Gareth O’Brien, and the home side rallied; It needed a Lewis Tierney intercept to take the sting out of an attack minutes later and - after a scappy spell - Tierney again saved a certain-try by superby wrapping-up Michael Dobson over the line.

Wigan remained, largely, on the back-foot. How much was down to them cruising and how much from Salford improving was difficult to tell, but there was a definite shift in momentum as Sa’u thundered over following a spell of pressure to make it 26-10.

Burgess failed to deal with a high-ball, which led to Dobson’s try, but Wigan had amassed enough points to avoid another nail-biting finish.

Salford: O’Brien; Johnson, Evalds, Sa’u, Carney; Lui, Dobson; Kopczak, Wood, Mossop, Jones, Griffin, Flanagan. Subs: Brining, Krasniqi, Tasi, Walne.

Wigan: Escare; Tierney, Gelling, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Leuluai; Nuuausala, Powell, Flower, Isa, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Subs: Tomkins, Clubb, Tautai, Sutton.

Half-time: 0-26

Referee: Ben Thaler