London Broncos 18 Wigan Warriors 16

Champions Wigan tumbled to another defeat as newly-promoted London Broncos produced the shock result of the Super League campaign so far.

Sunday, 3rd March 2019, 4:04 pm
Updated Sunday, 3rd March 2019, 5:17 pm
Jarrod Sammut and Oliver Gildart get to grips with London's Elliot Kear. SWPix

This was the Warriors' fourth defeat in five matches but it will raise more eyebrows than any of the others. They were awful.

Adrian Lam said they couldn't get out of second-gear against Hull FC a week ago. Today? They stalled on the driveway.

They were soft defensively and offered up little with the ball, failing to build any pressure through their own errors or penalties.

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This season, they have been starting games slowly and improving, but this was the opposite as they let a 10-0 lead slip.

Those seeking excuses would point to some injuries but that would be to ignore the quality they had in their ranks - and it would do a disservice to London, too.

The hosts harassed their opponents with a spirited effort, managed the game well and in lively full-back Alex Walker had arguably the best player on the pitch. For Wigan, only Joe Bullock and Tony Clubb caught the eye.

Lam's side missed eight first-team players including Liam Marshall, who took ill in the build-up.

Other injured players were Joe Burgess, Dom Manfredi, Ben Flower, Liam Farrell, Joe Greenwood, Gabe Hamlin, and two forwards who would have been 'next in line', Jack Wells and Liam Byrne.

Their absences gave Liam Paisley a chance in the second-row, while Morgan Escare started on the left wing - the Frenchman's first appearance of 2019.

Hundreds of Wigan fans made the trip down for the club's first game at The Trailfinders Sports Ground in Ealing. It is a tidy, tiny ground with most of the fans sat in small stands behind the posts.

London, who stunned Wakefield on the opening day, included Aussie recruits Luke Yates and Ryan Morgan in a squad which had four academy-products.

Ex-Bronco Jarrod Sammut predicted the fast, fake pitch would suit Wigan "to a tee" - and the early exchanges hinted he was right as they took a 10-0 lead.

But it was very much a first-half of two halves, as London tidied up their handling and rattled the visitors with two tries of their own to go 12-10 ahead by half-time.

In wet, windy conditions Wigan edged the early fast exchanges, even if there was a touch of fortune to their opening try.

Sam Powell's high kick ricocheted off the crossbar back in-field, and from their next set, Paisley crashed over from short range. Zak Hardaker was unable to tag on the extras.

London were spirited and adventurous but their handling never really matched their ambition.

For Wigan, Bullock wreaked havoc with damaging drives, chewing up metres and twice earning penalties, but they didn't throw enough at the hosts once they got to their line.

Eventually their persistence paid off when Willie Isa angled onto a Sammut pass to cross, converted by Hardaker, to make it 10-0.

So far, so pretty damn fine. And with Thomas Leuluai following Sean O'Loughlin off the bench and into action to steady Wigan home, they seemed poised to tighten their grip.

But London cut their errors and in the final 10 minutes, registered two tries of their own to take a slender lead at the break.

Eddie Battye muscled over for their first and, moments later, Matty Gee beat Hardaker to collect Jordan Abdull's drilled grubber. With Keiran Dixon converting both, Wigan fell behind. And their misfortune continued when Dan Sarginson limped off with his thigh strapped, prompting Isa to move to centre.

Escare couldn't collect George Williams' looping pass, and Dixon scooped up the loose ball, turned on the afterburners and raced more than 90m for his fifth try of the season. He couldn't add the conversion but in the 50th minute, he struck a penalty - O'Loughlin was pinged for holding down - to open up an 18-10 lead.

Clubb, one of few to impress, reduced the deficit against the club where he used to be captain. And with Hardaker adding the conversion, Wigan headed into the final quarter trailing by two points.

The sides went set-for-set but the Warriors couldn't break the hosts' resilience, and errors by O'Loughlin and Sam Powell released the pressure.

London: Walker; Dixon, Morgan, Kear, Williams; Abdull, Cunningham; Battye, Fozard, Mason, Pitts, Lovell, Yates. Subs: Gee, Richards, Smith, Butler.

Wigan: Hardaker; Davies, Gildart, Sarginson, Escare; Williams, Sammut; Navarette, Powell, Bullock, Paisley, Isa, Clubb. Subs: Leuluai, Partington, O'Loughlin, Tautai.

Referee: Tom Grant

Half-time: 12-10

Attendance: 2,586

Starman: Joe Bullock