Phil Wilkinson looks at five talking points from Wigan’s 50-10 defeat at Leigh.
1 After so long without rugby league, the first friendly of the year can often disappoint – like celebrating the end of Dry January with a warm can of Foster’s. But this opening 40 minutes was an even, pacey, spirited and high-quality derby. Both sides registered two tries, including a Thomas Leuluai solo effort on his return, as Wigan headed into the tunnel for half-time 12-10 down...
2 Then came the second-half, which was a completely different story. Wane rested many of his experienced players - it was a half-strength side to start with – and at one point, Anthony Gelling and Lewis Tierney were their only ‘starters’ on the pitch. Leigh took full advantage, scoring seven unanswered tries in a completely dominant display, with Cory Paterson finishing with a hat-trick.
3 Micky McIlorum is a popular man. On a bitterly cold afternoon, a crowd of 5,792 turned out to pay tribute to Wigan’s combative No.9. McIlorum even had support of his good friend George Carmont – sadly, the ex-centre didn’t get a nostalgic cameo on the pitch. Former team-mates Josh Charnley and Karl Pryce were also in the stand. McIlorum led the side out, in full playing kit, but was unable to take part owing to the ankle injury which has sidelined him for nearly a year.
4 Who impressed for Wigan? In the opening half, George Williams looked sharp – his short-kicking game was impeccable – Ryan Sutton ran strong and Romain Navarrete showed plenty of energy. Fellow Frenchman Morgan Escare, who kicked one goal from two, had little chance to show his attacking flair. They have one more friendly – at Catalans next Saturday – ahead of the start of the new season on February 11, at Salford.
5 Leigh have recruited significantly ahead of their return to Super League, and Glenn Stewart, Ben Crooks, Ryan Hampshire, Eloi Pelissier and Atelea Vea all got their first outing. Of them, lively Frenchman Pelissier caught the eye. With ex-Wigan forwards Harrison Hansen and Gareth Hock already on board, they appear to have a squad which looks like they may raise a few eyebrows in the top-flight. Neil Jukes has them playing an attractive style; they even took advantage of an off-season rule-change, taking a quick tap from a 40-20 which ultimately led to a try by Cory Paterson, who finished the match with a hat-trick.