Salford Red Devils 16 Wigan Warriors 17: Jackson Hastings saves the day

Jackson Hastings struck a dramatic drop goal to keep Wigan's perfect start going - to the delight of the returning Wigan fans.

Saturday, 22nd May 2021, 3:31 pm
Updated Saturday, 22nd May 2021, 3:34 pm
Jackson Hastings facing his former club

After more than a year without seeing their side live, 400 Warriors fans were allowed back to cheer on their side.

They serenaded the players with chants of 'Wig-an, Wig-an', 'Kings of rugby' and 'It's in our blood'.

And after a frustrating match they were indebted to Hastings' late contribution with less than three minutes to go, which poked Wigan ahead for the first time all match.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Of course, when a side is playing poorly, it is important they still manage to chalk off the victories, and Wigan's defensive grit and ability to grind out wins is serving them well.

By half-time, Adrian Lam's team were 14-10 down, had lost Bevan French to injury and were in danger of their first league defeat of the year.

Each side had exchanged two tries - Liam Farrell's effort from Harry Smith's carving run the pick of the bunch - but Harvey Livett s goal-kicking separated the sides.

Salford certainly didn't play like a side which had won just once all campaign; they had energy, confidence and a creative spark. Wigan weren't a mile off but their penalties and errors again put them under pressure, and when they worked their way into good position their execution wasn't crisp enough - perhaps in part due to the list of absentees.

Their saving grace was the scoreboard, and after Brad Singleton had crashed over for his second try - converted by Smith - the score was locked 16-16 heading into the final 15 minutes, allowing Hastings to snatch victory.

With Lam's side still missing a clutch of frontline players, forward Joe Shorrocks started in the centre with Zak Hardaker again on the wing, and Warrington-bound Joe Bullock was recalled.

Kai Pearce-Paul, the 20-year-old backrower recruited from London more than 18 months ago, came off the bench for his second senior appearance.

Salford's side included ex-Warriors Morgan Escare, Greg Burke and Jack Wells but Joe Burgess - in the 21-man squad - again following an off-season injury.

It was a lively start, and despite some good position from the visitors it was the Red Devils who struck first. After Escare was denied a try against his former side for obstruction, Livett intercepted to race over in the 10th minute. He couldn't convert but added a penalty moments later.

Singleton brought them back level when he stretched over for a try which Smith converted.

But Salford took back control during a golden spell as ex-Warrior Jack Wells angled through a retreating defence, Livett's conversion making it 12-6. And before the half-hour things had got worse for Wigan as French hobbled off following a heavy tackle.

Things just didn't seem to be going their way, but Smith brought them back into the game in sizzling fashion, breaking from deep and evading Escare before his looping pass sent Farrell over. Smith missed the conversion to draw them level.

And when Bullock spilled the ball from the resulting set, a subsequent penalty allowed Livett to open up a four point gap before half-time.

Wigan started the second half with some defensive bite, as Ollie Partington and Pearce-Paul forced errors and Bullock punched into the home line. But errors of their own and poor finishing kept the home line untroubled and, as the game inched towards the final quarter, Livett's penalty wedged a six point gap between the sides.

The Warriors have proved past-masters of finishing games strongly, and their spirited efforts were rewarded when Singleton crashed over in the 65th minute. With Smith adding the conversion, the score was locked.

As the clock ticked, the spills contributed to the thrills. Escare had a drop goal attempt charged down and at the other end, Wigan passed up the shot of a one-pointer, only for Hardaker's forward pass to Manfredi to end a promising attack.

And then with three minutes to go, Hastings stepped up to coolly slot home the winner. They head to Catalans next Saturday.

Salford: Escare; Sio, Watkins, Livett, Williams; Lolohea, Patton; Ikahihifo, Addy, Burke, Lannon, Pauli, Taylor. Subs: Atkin, Lussick, Ormondroyd, Wells.

Wigan: French; Manfredi, Shorrocks, Bibby, Hardaker; Smith, Hastings; Singleton, Powell, Havard, Bateman, Farrell, Partington. Subs: Bullock, Byrne, Clark, Pearce-Paul.

Half-time: 14-10

Referee: James Child