Leigh Centurions 16 Wigan Warriors 30: Five things we learned
Five things we learned from Wigan's 30-16 victory at Leigh on Monday night...
1. "We. Hate. Wigan. We. Hate..."
Five minutes into Monday's game at Leigh, and it began. And it was great to hear!
There may have only been around 1,600 home supporters at the Sports Village but it made such a difference.
They provided a vocal soundtrack to the hits, thrills and spills of the match, going silent only when Wigan crossed for tries.
Clubs, the governing bodies and the broadcasters deserve credit for getting games on behind closed doors during the pandemic, but even the best games have felt like something important was missing.
Because something important was. Fans, an atmosphere, banter, applause.
Sadly, Wigan fans will have to wait four weeks before they can be back at the DW Stadium, but at least they can look forward to nine home games left this year.
2. And to the game itself, and those who predicted it would follow the trend of the opener - Leigh come out all-guns, take the lead, Wigan claw their way back - were right on the money.
The Centurions were back in front of fans for the first time since being brought back into Super League and the Warriors, by Adrian Lam s admission, started the game nursing a Cup hangover.
But after a rocky first quarter they settled down and posted three tries to take the lead. And even though Ryan Brierley conjured a smart try to level the scores by the break, Wigan stepped it up in the second-half to underline their dominance and superiority.
Jackson Hastings and Bevan French were both impressive while Jake Bibby's two tries stretched his lead at the top of the tryscoring charts to eight.
It makes it six successive league wins for the Warriors... whisper it quietly, that's their best start EVER in Super League.
3. Wigan are not the finished article. Indiscipline is costing them at times, goal-kicking is an issue and the attack will surely improve as players settle into their preferred roles.
But the big conundrum facing Adrian Lam is this: How does he get the best out of both French and Zak Hardaker?
On the same day Hardaker was named April's Player of the Month after an outstanding start to the campaign, he was moved to the wing to allow French to play in the No.1 role.
It's easy to see why Lam made that call - French adds an extra dimension to the attack from full-back - but Hardaker was wasted out on the left edge. Just as French was when he played on the wing.
A likely return to centre for Hardaker, maybe against Salford on Saturday, will suit his competitive edge, defensive qualities and strong running... but will he be as good as if he was marshalling the side from full-back? Time will tell.
4. Mitch Clark made his first appearance of the year, and took his chance well.
His first carry was a surging, momentum-shifting effort and he did enough afterwards to stake a claim for a place in the side on Saturday.
Towering prop Joe Bullock was the man who missed out as Lam rotated his front-rowers, though he suggested it was not down to form, saying another prop may miss out this weekend and Bullock could be recalled.
Even with Tony Clubb suspended, it's good to see he has some options, competition and cover for the middle roles.
5. A word on Leigh.
They may have yet to win since returning to Super League but they have some good players and if they keep as spirited, and tidy up their discipline, it surely shouldn't be long before they get some points - or points percentage - on the board.
As Lam rightly said, now they have fans back, visiting teams won't look forward to playing in front of the hostile Sports Village crowd and that should go in their favour.
They raised eyebrows by picking Anthony Gelling during his trial for assault - he was today found not-guilty - and he was named their man of the match.
Unlike the NRL, Super League leaves it to clubs to decide if they want to stand down players without prejudice in such circumstances.