Salford 20 Wigan 23

Josh Charnley scores against Salford
Josh Charnley scores against Salford

Josh Charnley found a home away from home as his hat-trick helped keep Wigan within touching distance of the top.

The winger is leaving at the end of the season to join Sale Sharks, who also play at Salford’s AJ Bell Stadium.

And his treble last night - just a week after crossing twice at Castleford - helped them end a turbulent week on a positive note.

Wigan edged a tense, scrappy and mildly-entertaining first-half 11-10 before powering away after the break.

Two late Salford closed the gap and set up a tense finish but Wigan held on for an ultimately-deserved victory.

Charnley’s tries proved the difference, though this was in no way a solo effort.

Given the disruption - both before the game and during it - this was another win chalked off, another two points on the board.

There was only one pre-match talking point - the absence of John Bateman from the Wigan side. No official reason was given before kick-off for his absence, which opened the door for academy-product Joe Bretherton to come into the side.

There was another interesting sub-plot: the game marked the first time the three Tomkins brothers had appeared on the same pitch in a competitive match.

Salford fielded winger Daniel Vidot at full-back and Gareth Hock’s cousin - Ryan Lannon - came off the bench during the first-half.

It was a strange opening 40 minutes, which Wigan edged 11-10. Both sides had spells of dominance but, in general, Salford looked more powerful but Wigan better organised.

In the ninth-minute George Williams slotted a kick into the path of Josh Charnley, and the winger - on the pitch which will soon be his home - swept over for a try Matty Smith couldn’t improve.

Box office winger Justin Carney wreaked havoc with his midfield surges, and on one occasion both Powell and Greg Burke suffered head-knocks, forcing both off for concussion tests. With Ben Flower also spelled for treatment on a facial injury, it was perhaps understandable why Wigan’s energy-reserves appeared exhausted as Salford powered ahead with two tries.

Both were scored by ex-Warrior Michael Dobson, and both from Wigan failing to deal with kicks, to put the home side 10-4 ahead by the 25th minute.

But Wigan responded with a well-constructed effort. Williams kicked early in the tackle-count and Ryan Sutton - operating as an emergency second-rower - regathered to lock the scores. With seconds to go before the half-time siren, Smith nudged Wigan ahead with a drop-goal.

After the break the visitors who smartened up their act first. Taulima Tautai made errors but finished in credit with some powerful charges, helping set the platform for a crisp attack for Charnley to cross for his second.

Smith was unable to kick the conversion but he added a penalty minutes later to make it 17-10 in their favour.

And with Wigan growing in confidence, they seemingly put the game to bed when Charnley swept over for his hat-trick try. It took his tally to five in two games though the credit belonged to Sutton, for his break, and Sarginson’s silky footwork in the build-up.

Smith kicked the conversion, wedging a 13-point - three-score - lead in place. But when Josh Jones angled over with seven minutes to go, it cut the score to 23-16 and set up a tense finish.

Vidot then powered over to make it 23-20, and as Salford rolled the dice, Lui launched a bomb which Charnley spilled - giving the home side another bite at the cherry with 25 seconds to go.