The 18th man column: ‘Amor red-card was clear as day’

Liam Marshall crowned the win at Wakefield
Liam Marshall crowned the win at Wakefield

Six Warriors fans give their thoughts on Easter, contracts, Catalans and more...

What a week. First George and Morgan sign contract extensions, then we beat St Helens and finally wrap up Easter Weekends double bill with a tough win away at Wakefield.... and I got a Terry’s Chocolate Orange egg, does life get better than this?

First up, it’s fantastic news that both George and Morgan have signed up. George, I can only imagine, must have been inundated with NRL offers, and it must have been tempting to have possibly doubled his wage over there, with the promise of slightly more sun, sea and sand than in Wigan, even if the pies aren’t up to much. The fact he chose to stay with his hometown club speaks volumes about his love for the cherry and white, and his respect for the backroom staff and players. Shaun will keep pushing him hard and hopefully get the best out of this precocious talent, and we can still dream he may end up a one club player following the likes of Lockers and Farrell before him.

Morgan has also been a revelation since he arrived and his new contract is no less deserved. When I heard we had signed him I was a little unsure as he wasn’t even a Catalans regular at that stage. I thought maybe back up for a wing position or as fullback cover until Sam is back. Now the question is where Sam will play when he’s fit as Escare deserves to keep his position at fullback no questions asked, and the club management have done well to tie him to a long term contract so quickly.

I very much enjoyed our eighth very Good Friday in a row. Saints fans may question the validity of the red card but it was clear as day. The first contact being on the ball is irrelevant. The tackle ended up very high and was reckless at the very least. It’s Amor’s job to ensure if he’s tackling a player around the ball his arm doesn’t end up higher, he didn’t and Thaler was right to punish it as he did. The red card was made all the more likely, if no less deserved, by the fact Ben Thaler was dropped from top flight matches the week before for failing to send off Brett Ferres against Wigan two weeks ago, so probably felt under pressure to make sure he didn’t fail this time. Despite a decent defensive showing from Saints, Wigan eventually persevered with Marshall and Williams looking sharp and Farrell leading the way.

Finally Monday saw Wigan take revenge for their 62-0 loss last year. With a still fairly depleted squad they managed to battle to a tough win to make this a fabulous long weekend for all. Happy Easter!

Jon Lyon

There won’t be many fans purring over either performance this Easter weekend but the Warriors certainly got the job done. After a run of four games without a win, Shaun Wane again weaved his magic at the double header, continuing Wigan’s impressive Good Friday run against Saints, and following that up with a scrappy hard fought win which in some way banished the ghosts of last season’s heavy defeat at Wakefield. Four points from four is all you can really want from the Easter break. Add into that the news of Escare’s contract extension and it was a pretty decent week for Wigan fans.

Firstly Saints, I think every man and his dog has voiced their opinion on the Amor sending off. Of course it changed the game, but Wigan played what was in front of them, and despite a valiant effort from St Helens, I always thought Wigan had another gear to go to during the game. How good was it to see Micky McIlorum back though?

Hopefully as the next few weeks go by, the short term injuries will lessen and Wane will have more options to choose from. I still don’t think Flower, Gelling and Tommy are fully fit (the latter two were strapped up like mummies on Monday) The prospect of spelling Micky and Sam Powell and adjusting which player starts depending on the opposition is certainly a mouth-watering one for Warriors fans.

Wakefield was just a scrappy, flat, error strewn affair and Wigan continually invited Trinity into the game with silly errors and penalties and the game even wasn’t completely sewn up when Liam Marshall crossed with a couple of minutes remaining.

Speaking of Marshall, his return of nine tries in seven outings is pretty impressive considering he was probably fifth or sixth choice winger at the start of the season.

With all the uproar and criticism about the RFL’s decision to charge £3.49 to stream the mid-season test v Samoa it was great to see Wigan use their Facebook page to stream the academy game v St Helens, it was great to watch and the fan engagement from this was brilliant and the Warriors media team deserve a huge amount of credit for pulling it off.

This week sees another Sunday afternoon kick off and a family fun day, this time against Catalans.

Again, Wigan have targeted two of the games at the lower end of the attendance scale and tried to do something to increase interest and boost the numbers. The game itself is likely to be a tough affair as the Dragons have picked up three wins in a row and aren’t as poor on their travels as they have been in seasons gone by but if the Warriors really want to have a shout at the league leaders shield, this is a must win game to keep the pressure on the likes of Castleford, Leeds and Salford.

David Bailey

Easter is such a tough time in the Super League and many clubs make a meal of the old ‘woe is me’ saga, not Wigan though. I think Shaun Wane tries to generate a real positive mental attitude to the busy period by taking it as a test and a challenge and asking the team to stand up to it. In a sport where how you feel about a game can make a huge difference in your performance, it’s a great approach which has paid dividends once more.

St Helens are slowly finding their feet again and are a real threat to deal with. Despite our best efforts sometimes when we over played or lost count of fifth tackles, we proved too much for a twelve man Saints squad who probably put more effort into the game knowing they were one man short. Credit to them, as the caretaker coaches perhaps did not make the most of their interchanges, but they made a fist of the game and until late on it could have gone either way. But how could we not come away with the points with a long overdue appearance from our fabulous Michael McIlorum. With a wonderful welcome from the fans, he reminded us just what a contributor he is in both attack and defence and I was thrilled to see him return to the field.

Then on to Wakefield and whatever their ground is called this week, I think we made them look good and flattered their only game plan of quick play the balls and dummy half runs with some very average defence alongside some sloppy and most un-Wigan like attack in the first half. Our backbone in the squad were the forwards without a doubt and the fantastic form of Taulima Tautai just keeps rolling on.

I think I am right in saying that he is out of contract this year and would hope that he is kept at the DW for years to come as we still have not seen the best of this impressive athlete yet.

But we finished the weekend on a high with four points in the bag and a rampant Catalans side next up for the DW treatment.

Finally I was sad to read that both Jake Shorrocks and Tony Club are to miss most if not all of this season. Shorrocks with a training field injury to his knee will need much time to recuperate after major surgery whilst Clubb needs surgery also for a long standing condition. I wish them both well and look forward to seeing them back in due course where they belong, wearing the Cherry and White.

Darren Wrudd

Well...we’ve had worse Easters!

For the eighth Good Friday in a row, Wigan beat St Helens. However, it wasn’t as comfortable as it should’ve been, which is often the case when you’re playing against 12-men. When Kyle Amor was, shall we say, harshly sent off in the 13th minute, Wigan fans collectively sensed that this was going to definitely be a good Friday.

But, it wasn’t as simple as it could and should have been. The red card seemed to affect us, more than it did St Helens, as we struggled to really get going, and our attacking prowess was rather lacklustre in that first half.

We started the second half like we did against Hull FC a few weeks back, conceding in the first few minutes. Suddenly, it was game on. But we finally made that extra man count, when we scored three tries in a great seven-minute spell to put the game to bed. Little mention for Liam Marshall, who scored the try of the game with his second effort in the corner, astonishing finish.

After leaving the game, except for the red card, all the talk was about the two young-guns who made their mark in this historical derby.

Wigan’s Liam Marshall and Saints’ Regan Grace both got on the scoresheet in their Good Friday debuts, and both didn’t look out of place on the wings for their respective sides. It’s great to see coaches give these young guys a chance, and throw them straight in the deep end, there’s no better way to learn.

As for the Easter Monday fixture away at Wakefield, it wasn’t the greatest spectacle I’ve seen, but we got the vital two-points, and that’s all that mattered. Over both games, we haven’t been great, and on Monday we were way off our best, but we’ve won both and got maximum points, what more could you ask for?

However, we’ve a tough period coming up with games against Catalan, Castleford, Salford, Warrington and St Helens in succession. We now need to start playing well, and I think that’ll come. We’ll be getting a few more players back over the next week or so, and that will only make us stronger going forward.

Ben Reid

Another good Easter weekend for Wigan, four points from four is never easy and the game at Wakefield was certainly a slog. That entailed with the announcement of the re-signing of George Williams and Morgan Escare ensures a very happy Easter for all Wigan fans.

An enormous amount of credit has got to be paid to Ian Lenagan and Kris Radlinski to ensure that two of our form players so far this year have been signed up for the long term at Wigan. However, rather than focusing on the successful Easter this week, I want to take the time to give credit to the marketing staff at Wigan. I appreciate that this may not be to everyone’s taste but what Wigan did on Good Friday on and off the pitch, shows that Wigan are continuously improving in their offering to fans. The Oasis tribute band on the pitch before the game, weren’t particularly tuneful, but then again, neither is Liam Gallagher. The free Red Bull mocktails outside the South Stand, the 188 Bet Fan Zone, Clint Boom DJ-ing after the game – all things which are unique to the Wigan club and something which is nicely building a new experience at the DW Stadium. The Family Fun day against Huddersfield was a well-intended success and likewise this Sunday, another Sunday game against Catalan Dragons is being touted as a family game with the military being honoured at the game. I am sure it is much easier to market a game on Good Friday against St Helens than it is against Catalans however the added experience on Friday was an excellent initiative. I took two relative newcomers to rugby league to the game on Friday and they left the game commenting on the overall spectacle of the event, rather than just the game. Adding more elements to the game day experience will help more and more people return to the stadium on a more regular basis – as it is starting to feel like more of an event rather than just a game of rugby. Again, I am sure that this is seen as gimmicky to some fans but I must commend the Wigan staff on their vision and initiative in doing this and attempting to get more people to the games.

Sean Lawless

Morgan Escare last week signed a contract to the end of 2020, the cheeky Frenchman has more than justified the extension with his displays this season.

When he signed he was signed because he can cover fullback and wing, in the short time he has been here he’s made the fullback slot his own and people including myself aren’t too fussy about when Sam Tomkins will return, if I’m honest I wouldn’t play him at fullback when he does return.

I wouldn’t play him fullback even if Escare is injured as we have a glut of wingers in the team with Burgess, Manfredi, Tierney, Davies and Marshall who I think are all capable of filling in at fullback, are faster than Tomkins and have a stronger kick return.

In the future, if Escare is injured I believe Manfredi or Marshall are the next best to play fullback as both are strong in defence, under the high ball and have good kick returns.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t fair on Sam to bash him when he’s been out for so long and will be out for some time to come. I still think he’d be a world class half back.

He has great game management, a good long kicking game and despite losing a yard of pace still possesses his deceptive running game, I think it’s the last we’ll see of Sam at fullback.

If Sam goes in at halfback we have Tommy Leuluai and George Williams who are playing well. One of them could move to nine, but then we have Powell and Micky Mac. I don’t know, It’s a nice headache to have, I think injuries and resting players will dictate where Sam plays then it’s up to him to keep his place in the team.

Robert Kenyon