MICHAEL Maguire admitted Wigan let themselves down as they drew 16-16 with St Helens on the opening day of the Super League season.
The champions were leading 12-0 at half-time in their Millennium Magic showdown in Cariff through tries from Ryan Hoffman and Harrison Hansen. George Carmont stretched their lead to 16-0 early in the second-half but a late collapse saw Saints draw level with three tries in the final quarter.
“It’s credit to St Helens to be able to come back into the game,” said Maguire. “But there’s a lot we can learn from that.
“When you’ve got the ball, you’ve got to hang on to it. In the second half St Helens did that.
“Unfortunately, we let ourselves down in a number of areas in our defence which we are normally very sharp at.”
Both teams had chances to win at the end but drop-goal attempts by Sam Tomkins and then Kyle Eastmond, in the last play of the game, drifted wide.
Yet for nearly an hour, Wigan were in complete control and produced a performance filled with all the hall-marks of their title-winning campaign last year.
Their speedy, suffocating defence was present and accounted for, as was their slick attack. They even had two new faces in the line-up and Jeff Lima – a Kiwi prop who has given the pack a menacing streak – and the tireless Ryan Hoffman both showed up well in their debuts.
A neat exchange of passes down the left channel saw Josh Charnley send Hoffman charging over, Paul Deacon kicked the conversion shortly before he had to leave the action with concussion.
Tomkins was tormenting Saints with his range of kicks, and when one of his towering bombs caught Francis Meli and Paul Wellens in two minds, Hansen was on hand to re-gather the loose ball and barge past Ade Gardner to score a try. Tomkins converted.
And in the second-half, Wigan seized on an opportunity to extend their lead to 16-0.
A crisp passing move saw the ball passed along the line to Carmont, who angled through Saints’ defence.
That should have been enough, but indiscipline crept into Wigan’s performance and it provided their opponents with the lifeline they needed, as first James Roby set up a neat try for Jon Wilkin and then Tony Puletua dragged over two would-be tacklers as he strode over for another Jamie Foster-converted try.
With the clock ticking down, Jonny Lomax – a former Orrell St James amateur - found Meli unmarked on the left to touch down to level the scores.
Foster could not convert and both sides failed with drop-goal attempts to win the game - through Tomkins and Eastmond - leaving the match to finish all square.
MATCH REPORT, PICTURES AND ANALYSIS IN THE WIGAN EVENING POST (MONDAY) ...