Talking Sport- Proof: A 42-point loss can be a blip

Phil Wilkinson
Phil Wilkinson

YOU don’t have to look too far back for proof that a side can lose by a 42-point margin at Catalans and go on to have a successful season.

St Helens did it last year.

Indeed, Wigan themselves inflicted a 42-point victory on Leeds in 2012. I remember it well ... Rio Ferdinand in the dressing room, Brian McDermott under pressure, Wigan fans laughing at the miserable Leeds lot pouring out of Headingley.

The Rhinos ended that campaign with a Grand Final victory.

So history has taught us that even champion teams are vulnerable to the occasional blow-out scoreline. The odd hammering here or there.

But for Wigan to put last Saturday’s 58-16 loss in Perpignan down as a blip, they need to do something first. They need to get back to playing the way they were.

What made their hammering at the Dragons such a shock was how unexpected it was.

The Warriors had won five of their past six matches, nilled three teams in the process and closed the gap on leaders Leeds to a slender one point.

Why did they fail to deliver? Who knows.

Maybe their Challenge Cup exit the week before bruised them more than they thought. Maybe it was just an off-day and, in a double whammy, they ran into a Catalans side on top of their game (as an aside, I’ve said for a long time that Scott Dureau and Zeb Taia are outstanding players... I took little comfort from seeing them prove me right).

Given Wigan’s profile, defeats are magnified.

And given the emotional attachment of sport, some will be quick to draw conclusions on the evidence of 80 minutes. I’ve already heard some pick out certain players who ‘aren’t good enough’.

Which is ludicrous, of course, because the same players hammered Catalans 34-0 little more than a month ago, and that didn’t make them world beaters. Wigan now face games against the other top-four teams over the next three weeks.

That daunting run starts this Saturday with a showdown against Leeds in front of an estimated crowd of 40,000 in Newcastle.

But while we’re looking at recent history, it has shown that these two teams normally raise their performances for this fixture.

And we also know Wane has an enviable record in the Magic Weekend, with three successive victories, all against heavyweight opposition.

Let’s hope he has the magic touch again this Saturday... and then we can file last week’s defeat away as a blip. One big, fat, nasty blip.

It was great that so many Latics greats laced up their boots again for last Friday’s Joseph’s Goal charity match. Roberto Martinez and Emmerson Boyce – FA Cup-winning manager and captain – as well as former skipper Mario Melchiot were among those to take part.

The feeling of good-will stretched to Neil Roberts offering to compensate the fan whose car window was smashed by a wayward free kick.

But there was plenty of quality, too. And as my colleague Paul Kendrick observed, Nathan Ellington’s performance was the best by a striker in a Wigan shirt that he’s seen all year.