The 18th Man Column: Switch of focus will help build confidence

George Williams made his return to action against Warrington
George Williams made his return to action against Warrington

So for the third time this season the Warriors went into a top of the table clash and came out limping.

To be honest Wigan were probably weaker than when we last faced the Wolves and even though Warrington are still without the influential Sandow they still had too much experience and saw off the early threat convincingly.

While it was good to see George Williams back on the pitch but not many will be judging Wigan until they get the likes of Dom Manfredi, Joel Tomkins, Liam Farrell, Sean O’Loughlin and the second coming of Sam Tomkins on the pitch.

The likes of Tierney, Gregson and Wells are gaining valuable match experience and to be honest I am sure they will learn more from high intensity games like this rather than coming on at the end of a game Wigan have won easily.

The Warriors attack still looks ridiculously blunt and the structure that seems to have worked well for Wane over the years appears to have gone AWOL this season.

Hopefully with the return of a few key players in the coming weeks we should see partnerships click once again and if everyone hits form and Wigan continue with their usually mean defence, they will be challenging come the end of the season.

I have to say I was surprised to see Tony Clubb charged with a shoulder charge for his hit on Tom Lineham which I thought was a perfectly good tackle.

Super League takes a break for a couple of weeks now and while the Warriors have room for improvement it’s good to see they are only a couple of points off the pace. Especially having suffered two defeats at the hands of Warrington.

Next up for the Warriors is a trip to Dewsbury in the Challenge Cup and whilst no away game at lower league opposition is ever easy, the Rams haven’t won in their last four outings and conceded close to 150 points so if there was ever a game for Wigan to gain some confidence in their attack this is it.

David Bailey

Well we got off to a flyer and should have had another but for a forwards pass.

But then 15 minutes in Warrington woke up and turned up the pressure.

They pin-pointed players in our defence who were not doing the business. Gidley showed just why Wire had signed him up for another 12 months.

His display and kicking game made a massive difference and was instrumental in their win. We made far too many errors when under pressure with dropped passes and missed tackles.

The team having to keep playing with so many men missing is beginning to show. But we can only go with what we currently have available and the young players should be learning from it.

I still, like a lot of fans, cannot wait for all our first choice men to return. Because then and only then is when we should judge the team’s performances.

It is a big ask to play kids week after week and expect them to perform. There were some positives to come from this Bateman is certainly a future captain.

Williams showed glimpses of what we know he can do. Sarginson showed why he was wanted Down Under.

Joe Charnock

At first it was difficult to watch our lads get beaten so comprehensively at Warrington, but as the game wore on and it was obvious that we were not going to come back, I began to focus on individual efforts and performances which were certainly not lacking.

The toughest ask in a game like this is to collect the ball within your own 10 metres and run it back to the onslaught of a fired-up defence.

But our back line were outstanding in their effort and commitment to that alone.

Sarginson, Tierney and Charnley were really put under pressure and stood their ground against some ferocious tackles, showing real maturity and professionalism.

But again we relied on some very young bodies to prop up our squad and they have played far too much rugby than I would have wished on them already, so it is a real boon to hear that finally after what seems like an age, we are about to get some injured players back.

Even Tony Smith tipped his hat at the number of key first team players who were missing and suggested that a 
meeting later in the year would be a different match altogether.

Shaun Wane however will not focus on that and I admire his attitude that we play what we have and don’t moan about it, unlike many others.

Although eyes are already turning towards Newcastle and the impending weekend away that so many enjoy, we have a couple of stern tests to sort out first.

Our preparation for this weekend’s trip to Dewsbury must be thorough and complete.

The Challenge Cup has already seen a couple of real upsets and we cannot afford to go with an attitude that we will breeze through to the next round.

Depending on what players are available, I can see a couple of returnees being drip fed into the game which would be a good way to regain some match fitness.

Young George Williams also needs to get back up to speed and this will be a great 
opportunity for him and Matty Smith to reacquaint and settle down for what is sure to be a long season.

Darren Wrudd

Arguably the Wigan side that met Warrington last Thursday was weaker than the one that played them earlier in April. On that occasion we had Dom Manfredi, Sean O’Loughlin, Liam Farrell and Joel Tomkins out on the park. So was it realistic to expect anything much different than what we saw? Fair enough, Warrington have lost Chris Sandow since then but he is the only one of their first 14 squad numbers absent while Wigan played this game without numbers 1, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 in comparison, while Number 6 George Williams was just returning off the bench after almost two months absence. I mean if the Warrington equivalents in numbers – Kurt Gidley, Matty Russell, Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Ashton Sims, Ben Currie, Jack Hughes and Ben Westwood – were all absent for this game playing a full strength, bar one player, Wigan you’d more than likely get a similar result the opposite way.

The absence of Wigan’s entire starting pack was probably the difference. For 20 minutes it was a good battle and I thought Tony Clubb was superb in particular. Once the bench came into effect was when we fell away. Taulima Tautai’s three penalties being particularly costly.

What a joke Clubb was cited for that hit on Tom Lineham by the way. No one wants to see players injured but that was just a tough, but fair, shot. Wire FM, who by nature of the name cover Warrington every week, were commentating in front of me doing Wish FM’s call on Thursday and their commentators both agreed that was “the hit of the season”. In fact I don’t think I’ve seen or heard anyone complain about it, which says it all really. Personally I’m quite happy to draw a line, understand we’ve had a really tough two months with injuries and illness and be content that we are in the top four despite all that. Arguably, that is a great achievement and we have got some strike power to, surely, return soon. I know though, despite the injuries and illness, a lot of supporters are unhappy and that’s because our attack continues to be completely uninspiring. You can’t really argue against that when statistically this is the worst attacking show by a Wigan side since 1984.

It’s an attack that is now averaging 12 points less per game than it was achieving in 2014. That is a hell of a decrease but we are still doing ok in terms of results and that shows great potential for us if Sam Tomkins can come in and provide the spark to the attack that is clearly lacking at the moment.

Bilko