Five things we learned from Wigan’s 28-12 win against Widnes yesterday...
1. Tony Clubb made a try-scoring return to action just 58 days after having a kidney removed.
The prop - who missed the second-half of 2016 with a serious neck injury - was given a vocal reception when he came off the bench. He made a surging first carry and, moments later, crossed under the sticks from short-range. It was good to see the popular Londoner back on the pitch.
2. Wigan were indebted to Joe Burgess in the closing stages.
Having had their 16-0 lead cut back to 16-12 thanks to two converted Lloyd White tries either side of half-time, there were plenty of nerves as the game entered the final quarter.
But Burgess produced a try-saving tackle to deny Stefan Marsh - and then sealed victory with a late double, giving the final scoreline a somewhat more comfortable look.
3. Shaun Wane has a pool of quality wingers to choose from.
With Burgess restored to the left flank (and he looks a lot more comfortable on the wing, than at centre), Wane recalled Lewis Tierney to the right edge - leaving no place for Liam Marshall, despite 22 tries in 19 games.
Wane later made it clear he has been happy with Marshall, but felt he “owed” Tierney a chance in his preferred wing spot (he scored the game’s other try), having struggled as a makeshift full-back for the majority of his appearances this year.
Tom Davies also missed out, and Wane expects Dom Manfredi to be knocking on the selection door very, very soon after nearly a year out with a serious knee injury. Decisions, decisions.
4. It was a scrappy match littered with unforced errors and cheap penalties.
Widnes, who had won three of their previous four, were persistent but lacked an attacking edge to break down the hosts – both their tries were from kicks, one improvised and one which took a fortunate ricochet.
Other Wigan highlights included: Liam Farrell’s ball-steal on Chris Bridge to set-up Burgess’ first try, John Bateman’s stoic display, an all-round solid defence, and Sean O’Loughlin’s cool collect and tumble for the opening try - on his 350th Super League appearance.
A bigger milestone is approaching... the skipper is two games away from 400 for Wigan.
5. The win was their third without defeat since key players Sam Tomkins, John Bateman and Sean O’Loughlin have returned – but only their first league win since April.
It moved them four points clear of the bottom-four, with three games to go before the Super-8s split and - looking up - narrowed the gap on a top-four spot to six points.
Wigan, in seventh, have 10 games to try and crack into the play-offs positions. “If any team can do it from this far back, it’s Wigan,” said Sky Sports News summariser Tony Rea.
The Warriors travel to Catalans on Saturday before returning to the DW for the ‘Big One Week’ against Warrington and Leeds.