Wigan Warriors 42 Salford Red Devils 6

Frank-Paul Nu'uausala celebrates scoring Warriors' seventh try
Frank-Paul Nu'uausala celebrates scoring Warriors' seventh try

Wigan fired a warning shot to their play-off rivals with a landslide win - and what a time to do it

They sharpened the knives for next week's trip to Wembley with a wonderful, well-rounded display which reaped eight tries, including two from winger Joe Burgess.

Shaun Wane's men married that impressive attack with a typically robust and energetic defensive display to limit Salford to a solitary, late try.

And with St Helens just going down at Leeds, it propelled the Warriors to within one point of a play-offs position.

The manner of this win was richly encouraging, offering them renewed optimism, and ensuring they will begin their Challenge Cup Final preparations without any areas to address.

Wigan were methodical and cool-headed. They didn't get giddy by their early scoring flurry and begin chasing points; they built pressure, controlled the game, and turned over possession in good position.

Far too often, Salford melted under the persistent intensity of Wigan's display.

With George Williams pulling the strings, the left-side was particularly effective, showing the high-level of timing, understanding and potency we saw earlier in the season.

Having established a 26-0 lead at the break, they added three further tries to delight the 11,000-plus crowd.

Wane stuck to his word and fielded a full-strength side. There was only one change to the side which beat Huddersfield 18-4, with Liam Marshall recalled for Tom Davies (hamstring).

The prolific winger, who has poached 22 tries in 20 appearances this season, made an early spill but soon settled into the match, and finished with a deserved touchdown.

Salford were without Robert Lui but had Australian star Todd Carney in the halves, and recent Kiwi recruit Manu Vatuvei on the wing.

Ian Watson's side have enjoyed a great season, but they had lost their previous six and Wane predicted they would both be lacking confidence and exerting plenty of aggression.

Wigan started at a quick tempo, Tony Clubb piercing the line to fire an early warning shot of their intent.

The next few minutes belonged to the visitors, who tested the Warriors defence with three successive attacking sets.

But the home side repelled the threat, and soon took a firm grip of the contest which they didn't relinquish.

First, Sean O'Loughlin raced onto Sam Tomkins' stabbed kick into the ingoal. And after an error from Vatuvei inside his own half, Burgess swept over from the resulting scrum after classy centre Oliver Gildart picked apart the Reds defence.

Williams, in a return-to-impeccable-form display, kicked both conversions to make it 12-0.

Wigan kept up the intensity, as Liam Farrell punched through in the 18th minute from Williams' pass, the latter unable to tag on the extras.

Wigan were making metres with ease, and when Wane rotated his bench it did not disrupt their rhythm, Burgess arcing round a stretched defence for his second try from Williams' wonderful, looping pass to make it 20-0.

Tomkins was solid as a rock at the back, despite two high-shot attempts to unsettle him, and he added width and spark to their attack.

Salford looked like a side in damage-limitation mode, and offered little in attack to worry Wigan. And in the 36th minute, Sam Powell dived onto Tomkins dribbled kick through, Williams' conversion making it 26-0 at the break.

The action flatlined for a spell early in the second-half but a stinging tackle by Thomas Leuluai on ex-Warrior Michael Dobson turned up the volume from the stands, they defended their line and - after forcing an error - hit Salford with a sucker-punch.

Farrell broke from deep, Burgess advanced the ball, and Gildart fed Williams for a 49th minute try he converted.

Salford simply wilted under the onslaught, Frank-Paul Nuuausala living up to his 'Wrecking Ball' nickname to crash over. Interestingly, all the previous 32 points had been scored by Wigan academy-graduates. Williams' conversion swelled their advantage to 38 points.

With 12 minutes to go, Niall Evalds touched down after Wigan failed to deal with a high-ball to ensure they avoided the indignity of being nilled. Gareth O'Brien converted.

But normal service was soon resumed as Gelling fed Marshall, and he turned on the after-burners to cross.

MATCH FACTS

Wigan: S Tomkins; Marshall, Gelling, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Leuluai; Nuuausala, McIlorum, Clubb, Bateman, Farrell, O'Loughlin. Subs: Isa, Sutton, Powell, Tautai.

Salford: Evalds; Johnson, Jones, Bibby, Vatuvei; Carney, Dobson; Walne, L Tomkins, Krasniqi, Lannon, McCarthy, Hauraki. Subs: O'Brien, Kopczak, Griffin, Brining.

Half-time: 26-0

Attendance: 11,229

Star man: George Williams

Referee: Chris Kendall