Five talking points from the win over Salford that sends Wigan back to Wembley for the Challenge Cup final
1. Wembley is where it's at!
Despite the Grand Final at Old Trafford growing in prestige over the years, it still lacks the history and aura that Wembley has in abundance.
Right from the first minute you got the feeling the Wigan players were well up for this one and, when then they needed it, the Warriors fans were also there for their side.
The ‘Wembley’ chants became more audible as the clock ticked towards the 80-minute mark, and the fact over 1,000 tickets were sold within an hour of going on sale after the game shows how special the national stadium remains for Wiganers.
2. Salford have come on leaps and bounds this season.
Credit to the Red Devils for making the semi-final at Warrington such a wonderful occasion.
Despite not showing up for the first 20 minutes, when Wigan could have been out of sight, Salford roared back into it and led 14-12 at the break thanks to some thrilling rugby.
Thankfully Warriors were able to stem the bleeding and come on strongly in the final quarter, but Salford did their travelling fans proud – and suggested they may be capable of inflicting one or two bloody noses in the Super-8s.
3. Sam Tomkins is back!
Written off by all and sundry – and treated as a pantomime villain by opposition fans – the Warriors ace showed he is back to his best with a masterful display at full-back. Despite being very harshly sent to the sin-bin on the half-hour mark – “I still don’t know why”, he said after the game – Tomkins returned to the fold to marshall the Wigan defence and chime into the line at every opportunity at the other end.
If he continues in this vein, the England No.1 jersey at the World Cup will surely be his once again.
4. Video referee Ben Thaler cannot be accused of being a Wigan fan!
Twice inside the first five minutes, Wigan were rightly denied tries when Tom Davies put a foot in touch and then took delivery of a forward pass from Anthony Gelling.
But the decision to disallow Joe Burgess’ wonderful score at the start of the second half, off a lovely break from Sam Tomkins. beggared belief.
With referee James Child having awarded a try on the field, the onus was on Thaler to find ‘conclusive proof’ that call was wrong.
If the video footage he saw was so ‘conclusive’, how come it took him replay after replay after replay to come to that conclusion?
5. The job is only half done!
Despite the euphoria of reaching Wembley, every single Wigan player after the game was quick to point out two things.
Firstly, the job was only half done, with the small matter of a final against Hull still to be negotiated.
Secondly, the players were also very conscious of the three important Super League games between now and August 26, which will have a huge bearing on whether the Warriors finish in the top four.
Nevertheless, Shaun Wane’s men are coming into form at just the right time – which is very bad news indeed for the rest of the competition.