IT was a family affair for the Warriors as they flexed their muscles ahead of the start of the Super League campaign.
Last night’s match marked the first time the three Tomkins brothers – Joel, Sam and Logan – have appeared in the same Wigan side after the youngest sibling was handed a chance to impress.
Hooker Logan came off the bench in the last 10 minutes to help steer the visitors towards an ultimately comfortable victory in their third, and final, pre-season friendly.
The Warriors were far from at their best, but still had enough fire-power to see off stuttering Warrington.
Coach Michael Maguire will take plenty of positives from the rearranged game, not least their spirited defensive effort which restricted Warrington to just one try until the 68th minute. Once he has reviewed the match, he will no doubt have a few selection headaches before Warriors open the campaign against St Helens in the Millennium Magic game on February 12.
Wigan had less of the possession and position in the opening half but managed to take a 12-6 lead into the break, courtesy of tries from Sam Tomkins and Liam Farrell. Wolves’ execution never matched their effort, Lee Briers’ scrappy effort just before the interval all they had to show, before the visitors made the game safe with touchdowns from Thomas Leuluai and Chris Tuson.
Joel Tomkins started the game in the unusual position of centre, while Logan was on a six-man bench that also included Sam, who got the nod to play following a recent groin injury.
But Michael Maguire was without six front-line stars through injury, with Pat Richards, Brett Finch, Martin Gleeson, Stuart Fielden, Harrison Hansen and Eamon O’Carroll all missing out.
Warrington coach Tony Smith fielded a strong side including new Australian recruits Brett Hodgson, the former Man of Steel, and Joel Monaghan.
The latter said he was braced for some abuse from the opposing fans, and he got it, with ‘dog barks’ from the vocal travelling supporters each time he got the ball in reference to the lewd internet picture which prompted his NRL exit.
The game served as a testimonial for Jon Clarke, Warrington’s no-nonsense hooker who started his career with the Warriors in 1997. Clarke, who played for the same Hindley junior side as Wigan’s half-back Paul Deacon, led the home side out to a generous applause from the appreciative crowd.
Derbies between these two are spicy encounters and, while last night’s game didn’t have the same intensity as a Super League game, it was far more heated than many friendlies.
Deacon was an early victim of the physical exchanges, and was forced to leave the field after being clattered inside the opening five minutes. Sam Tomkins came on in his place and teased the Wolves defence with his trademark dancing runs. He was also on hand to scoop up a wayward pass and race under the sticks unopposed to open the scoring in the sixth minute. With Deacon off the pitch, Sam took over the goal-kicking duties and struck the conversion to make it 6-0.
Wigan frequently found themselves on the wrong-end of referee Phil Bentham’s interruptions, which presented Warrington with easy passage into the visitors’ half. But they were wasteful with the ball, their best chance falling to Richie Myler who chased and collected Joel Monaghan’s angled kick, only to have a try ruled out for offside.
Deacon returned to the action and – like his replacement earlier in the game – made an instant impression, providing a sweet, short pass for Farrell to cut through the Wolves defence for a close-range try, following good approach play by the evergreen George Carmont. Deacon’s conversion opened up a 12-point margin.
Wolves huffed and puffed to try to get a foothold in the game but their errors continued to be their downfall, as David Solomona lost the ball with the line at his mercy and then they failed to capitalise on handling errors by Deacon and then Carmont.
With half-time looming, the home side’s persistence eventually broke the Wigan defence when Briers wriggled through to touch down for a try that Hodgson converted.
As the second-half unfolded Wigan found their groove.
They surged down field on the back of some strong forward drives and rapid play-the-balls, and Leuluai found a way through with a close-range dummy-half attack in the 53rd minute. Deacon’s conversion made it 18-6.
Josh Charnley – the young three-quarter who thrived on loan at Hull KR last season before making his Wigan debut later in the year – came off the bench and showed early promise, piercing Warrington’s defence from deep.
Later in the move, replacement Chris Tuson barged his way over, Deacon’s goal wedging open an 18-point margin.
As Maguire rang the changes, Hodgson tried his best to spark the home side into life and it was his angled run and kick that set up the next try for winger Rhys Williams. Hodgson’s sideline conversion closed the score to 24-12 in Wigan’s favour.
Logan Tomkins came off the bench in the final 10 minutes to line-up in the same side as his brothers and did not look out of his place in the side.
Fittingly, perhaps predictably, it was testimonial man Clarke who touched down for the final try – and the loudest cheer – of the night.