Wigan 12 Widnes 18
With an unbeaten Super League run at the DW Stadium stretching back 21 months and a perfect start to the season on the line, Widnes beat Wigan 18-12 to go top of the table.
The surprise package so far in 2016, Denis Betts’ Vikings made it six wins from seven games to go clear at the top of the table in a game which developed into a thriller.
Like boxers getting a feel for the bout, it took almost a quarter of the game for Wigan to land the first blow.
With Widnes setting-up to strike the Warriors’ line, Liam Farrell intercepted Joe Mellor’s pass to race 80 metres and score, despite Stefan Marsh’s best efforts to chase him down.
But instead of injecting life into the contest, the game fell flat until the final 10 minutes of the half.
Once it sparked into life though, the match lived-up to the hype. On the half hour, Matt Whitley put Warriors academy product Joe Mellor through a gap in the Wigan defence and the stand-off kicked for Corey Thompson to chase.
With the ball heading for touch on the Wigan line, Thompson palmed it back fro Chris Dean, but he couldn’t get over as the home side scrambled back.
At this point, the Vikings were the more entertaining side to watch, throwing the ball about and exploring options, but once Anthony Gelling snuffed out the danger by gathering a speculative pass, Wigan regained their composure.
There was still an element of Wigan not quite getting the mixture right in attack, notably when Josh Charnley broke through thanks to a pass from Farrell, only for Farrell to overrun when in support, erasing the option of carrying on the move.
But the inroads made put the foundations in place for Wigan to apply more pressure, and five minutes before the break Charnley went over for his first.
A slick move involving a pass from Sean O’Loughlin, and a sharp ball from Dan Sarginson, missing out Farrell and Oliver Gildart, held the door open for Charnley to help Wigan to an 8-0 lead at the break.
But the cushion provided little comfort to Wigan after the break.
Widnes, in no mood to lose their grip on an impressive start to the season, prodded Wigan’s defence and got over the line through Mellor four minutes after the restart, only for it to be chalked-off by the video ref.
Undeterred, Mellor provided the pass for Whitley to get over the line and start their side of the scoreboard ticking, though some fans will protest Mellor’s pass looked a touch forward.
The end-to-end nature of the game showed no signs of stopping as Charnley crashed over for what he thought was his second - but after being referred to the video ref, was disallowed for the winger being held-up.
Thompson bombed another chance in front of the away fans before Charnley did manage his second, after picking off an O’Loughlin bomb that was allowed to bounce - but Wigan’s lead was still only a converted try given Matty Smith’s third conversion miss of the evening.
Not quite fingernail-chewing time on the clock, Marsh went over to cut the gap - but when
Rhys Hanbury made-up for the conversion miss by sending Charly Runciman over to put his side in front worry started to set in for the home side.
Hanbury landed a penalty in the 72nd minute to stretch the advantage to a converted try but there was more drama to come as Wigan had repeat sets on the Widnes line in the final minute before Smith dropped the ball to the cheer of the away fans who had waited since 2003 to see their team win in Wigan.
Wigan Warriors: Dan Sarginson; Dom Manfredi, Anthony Gelling, Oliver Gildart, Josh Charnley; Sean O’Loughlin, Matty Smith; Tony Clubb, Sam Powell, Ben Flower, Liam Farrell, John Bateman; Taulima Tautai
Subs: Lee Mossop, Ryan Sutton, Greg Burke, Nick Gregson
Widnes Vikings: Rhys Hanbury; Corey Thompson, Chris Dean, Charly Runciman, Stefan Marsh; Joe Mellor, Kevin Brown; Eamon O’Carroll, Aaron Heremaia, Gil Dudson, Setimata Sa, Chris Houston, Hep Cahill
Subs: Manase Manuokafoa, Alex Gerrard, Macgraff Leuluai, Matt Whitley
Tries: Charnley 2, Farrell
Tries: Whitley, Marsh, Runciman
Goals: Hanbury 3