The 18th Man Column: We're in charge of our own play-off destiny
Just when we needed it, that was a real tonic for the fans and the club itself after a long day at the office the previous week in London.
It must have been tough mentally to cope with the loss and then have to prepare for a Super 8s game the following Friday, but I think it may have helped that it was our old enemies Saints who should feel the wrath of our frustrations.
It was good to read the interview with Taulima Tautai who heaped praise onto his head coach for the manner in which he conducted himself after the cup defeat. This attitude to hard work and commitment is infectious with the players buying into the teachings of the leader in whom they place their trust and faith. It certainly showed and although the score line was not a whitewash, it was not the points on the board, but the effort we put into our defence which won the game. Summed up by that wonderful solo try saving tackle by Sam Tomkins on Regan Grace. Reminiscent of a Radlinski effort, he threw 100 percent of himself into stopping the Saints flyer and showed the way to his team mates.
Although it was hard to argue with the man of the match award to Sean O’Loughlin, I was most pleased for Liam Marshall who bounced back from a confidence knocking Wembley to put in a great performance when he was obviously targeted and put under a lot of pressure. I would congratulate him on a super performance which showed a lot of character.
This has of course put us in charge of our own destiny. After some less than convincing performances this year, we can really take control of our season if we beat Hull this week and edge them out of the top four. I feel sure that the boys need no motivation to win this one and with luck, the video referee won’t decide the outcome or we might struggle. Perhaps if we wear a Saints shirt for the game, they would award a try if we just got close.
I’ve only just dusted off my clothes where I’ve been rolling on the floor laughing for six days at the irony of the video ref allowing Ben Barba’s try and disallowing the one at Wembley which would have won us the cup.
I believe there’s a team of scientists at Berne in Switzerland trying to work that one out as we speak. They still don’t know how one try was disallowed and the other given. Anthony Gelling did a cracking video on social media of great sporting moments with video ref interference and disallowed for stupid reasons, if you don’t laugh you’ll cry. I think it’s high time the video refs and refs just got out of the way and let every one else get on with the game. If they’re not disallowing perfectly good tries they’re screaming hold/set/move all night on Sky. We even have Stuart Cummings giving his two penneth on Sky too, that’s not to mention the time it takes for video refs to give a decision - never mind the correct one. Plus, with the referees stopping play every time someone gets a knock - I thought we only stopped play if it was a head injury? I don’t know, all the refs need to get out of the way as they’re there to referee the game, not conduct or orchestrate the game. The only words I want to hear out of a referee’s mouth are “play on” and “you two, pack it in and get on with the game.” Blimey! Come on refs, we pay good money to watch the players play rugby, not for the referees to be the star of the show.
It was good to get the win over Saints as it ensures our season isn’t over yet. As hard as it may be we can still win the Grand Final and that seems bizarre given the season we’ve had with injuries and the standard of rugby on show. Let’s hope the boys have turned a corner now and start playing expansive rugby rather than watching a win at all costs wrestling match between 26 players.
In the news this week Brian McDermott criticised players for play acting, well, I think it must be awards season as Louie McCarthy Scarsbrook must be a shoo-in for an Oscar for walking like Elvis after he’s had 20 pints whilst wearing roller skates when Willie Isa tackled him. I know LMS is a southerner, you can tell by his haircut, but that play acting was a bit soft and proved that the faux furore wasn’t justified as he wasn’t reprimanded this week by the judiciary. Come on fellas, this is rugby league not football, let’s stop the play acting and cheating.
Liam Marshall is in with a shout of Albert Goldthorpe Rookie of the Year up against the likes of our own Tom Davies, Regan Grace, Darnell McKintosh, Danny Richardson, Danny Walker and Jack Walker. I think Marshall should win as he just edges out Tom Davies due to the number of tries he’s scored, but both are fantastic prospects. A player who didn’t make the running and one I think we should try and sign is young Harvey Livett from Warrington, injury has prevented him making a long-term impact.
Our under-19s won the Grand Final this week, I didn’t manage to get to watch it unfortunately but well done to them. I’m sure there’s plenty future first teamers in the team that won and success breeds success. Which is good for when they step up to the first team.
Being a Wigan fan I haven’t known too many cup final losses.
I have though discovered the best way to get over one is winning away against the old enemy. Friday’s win over St Helens was a massive pick-me-up after the disappointment of Wembley.
Hats off to Shaun Wane and the staff for picking the lads up off the floor. In some ways we were lucky we were playing Saints as it would have been harder to fire ourselves up for a game away at Salford or Huddersfield. One thing Waney does is make sure everyone is up for the derby match.
All the pre-match hype was about Ben Barba making his debut for St Helens. For someone who hasn’t played a competitive game in nearly a year he did ok, but there was only one person in the entire ground who thought he scored, another appalling decision contradicting Tony Clubb’s disallowed effort at Wembley. If this is the standard set by video referees then they might as well do away with them. If they are going to add 10 minutes or more to every Sky game and still get the decisions wrong then there is no point.
As far as Wigan were concerned it was an outstanding effort against a team that had had the week off. Sean O’Loughlin lead from the front as always and his influence was shown when he was finally replaced after a long stint and St Helens then scored twice in quick succession, ensuring Wane had no choice but to throw Lockers back on quick smart.
There were highlights aplenty as the game wore on. Liam Marshall put his Wembley nightmare behind him and dealt admirably with the inevitable procession of bombs aimed his way. Sam Tomkins improved again and made what could have been the tackle of the season on Regan Grace in the corner. As it turned out it wasn’t even the tackle of the game as Willie Isa stopped a marauding Alex Walmsley front on from only a couple of yards out, defying physics in the process.
Isa has come in for some stick after his third man in tackle on Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Biased as I am, I feel he should get the benefit of the doubt having tackled LMS from behind. Had he hit the side of his knees it would have been shocking tackle. It has to be said though that it is very hard to find sympathy for LMS, one of the players I like least in Super League, seemingly taking over from Ryan Bailey as pantomime dame of the sport. Another win away at Hull on Friday, revenge surely on the agenda, and we’re right back in the top four hunt.
The season starts here. Well that’s what Wigan are hoping after getting back on the horse with an impressive derby display against St Helens.
Not only spoiling Ben Barba’s “dayboo” but also putting a huge dent in Saints’ hopes of making the Grand Final.
A quick fire brace from Oliver Gildart in the first five minutes meant that the Warriors could keep their bitter rivals at arm’s length throughout the game. Despite a couple of signs of Saints rallying, you couldn’t help get the feeling that the Warriors had a couple more gears to click into if needed. Coincidentally it was comments from Gildart earlier in the week that pretty much summed up the mood around the team and fans. His point was that if any Wigan player needed extra motivation to play Saints (as a reaction to the Cup final defeat) then they shouldn’t be wearing Cherry and White. That’s exactly the kind of mentality that having three proud Wiganers heading up the club (Lenagan/Radlinski/Wane) will bring.
Back to the game itself and once again Wane was diplomatic in the aftermath of Ben Barba’s try.
Thankfully the decision to award the try didn’t affect the outcome of the game quite like the decision for Clubb at Wembley, and I am sure it may have been a different scenario after the game had Wigan lost on the basis of those points. Mind you Saints aren’t very happy with Isa and Leuluai not being banned for their tackles in the game either. Swings and roundabouts I guess.
Wigan’s left edge is once again looking threatening with Gildart, Williams, Burgess and Farrell all looking dangerous throughout. But it was O’Loughlin and Tomkins that stood out for me. It was certainly a captain’s knock from the skipper who was immense in everything he did and Tomkins was exceptional at full back. The highlight being the tackle on young winger Regan Grace who looked a certainty to score until Tomkins was across like a flash dragging the flying Welshman into touch. (If you look at the replay of the tackle, I am still bemused as to what Zeb Taia was doing after the event).
This week it’s Hull FC and a win for the Warriors will see them leapfrog FC in the race for a semi spot. I am sure that once again there will be no need for any extra motivation after Wembley and Wigan will want to maintain the push to defend their title at Old Trafford.
Hull will also be without a couple of players to injury and suspension whilst Wane continues to get reinforcements back (Davies and Tomkins are expected to be in the 19 man squad).
Finally a couple of things last Sunday showed me exactly what supporting this great club is all about. Firstly it was the Wigan 10k and there were literally hundreds of Warriors supporters running for charity and in particular Joining Jack. Was great to see young Jack Johnson completing the course on his scooter. It was also great to see some of the Wigan players dishing out water in the bad weather at Robin Park to the participants. Secondly the Academy Grand Final took place later in the day at the DW when Wigan took on their closest rivals Castleford and the Warriors ran away convincing winners. When you consider that this was their eighth Grand final win in 10 seasons, you cannot help but be proud of the work that goes into such an achievement especially when you see the progression of players through to not only our team but to other teams in Super League.