Wigan 32 Widnes 16

Sam Tomkins rolled back the years with a vintage try which finally secured two hard-fought points.

Friday, 2nd March 2018, 10:24 am
Updated Friday, 2nd March 2018, 10:50 pm
Wigan Warriors' Sam Tomkins scores his team's fifth try

Wigan held only a 20-16 lead when he collected a ball at full-back, jetted through the covering defence and raced away for a 70m try which he converted.

Warriors had dominated the second-half but only then, with five minutes to go, could they relax knowing the win was in the bag.

Tom Davies added a late aerial touchdown - which Tomkins converted from the sidelines - to make the final scoreline appear an easier victory than it really was.

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Indeed, with the Beast from the East raging, Widnes proved pests from the west.

They held a 16-0 until the 40th minute and repelled and disrupted Wigan’s comeback attempts for as long as they could. Short-range tries by Ryan Sutton and Thomas Leuluai cut the gap to two-points before Liam Farrell put them ahead for the first time on the hour-mark - setting the stage for a strong finish.

In defeat at Warrington, the Warriors had been flat or - as Shaun Wane had described - “doughy”. For the first-half of this game, they were far from at their best - but it was a different type of poor performance.

They had plenty of possession in good attacking positions. But far too often, moves either broke down or were well defended by a spirited Vikings outfit, and their kicking game was generally predictable. But the running repairs paid off, the forwards bullied their opponents and they surged back impressively.

Both wingers Tom Davies and Joe Burgess caught the eye, Joel Tomkins had one of his best games in years and his brother, Sam, played a big role in the comeback.

Four other fixtures fell victim to the freezing weather. But after a morning inspection this got the go-ahead and thousands of fans braved the conditions on Wigan’s return to the DW - their first game on the ground in nearly six months.

Wane made just one change to his side, with winger Liam Marshall, who had scored five tries in the first three games, making way for Burgess.

Widnes, who beat Leeds in their last outing, had ex-Warriors Stefan Marsh, Joe Mellor and Greg Burke in their squad but were without strike centre Krisnan Inu.

Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan said in his programme notes to say he hoped for a “more expansive brand of rugby” from the side this year.

By half-time, only one team had turned on the style - and it wasn’t the men in Cherry and White.

Widnes twice breached the hosts’ line and, with Tom Gilmore proving a marksman with the boot, they took a 16-0 lead before Wigan posted their first points.

Early on, a breakaway Burgess was pulled back by referee Robert Hicks for a knock-on in the interception. And from the next set, Widnes went ahead when Gilmore stabbed the ball through the line for the chasing Matt Whitley to ground.

Sam Tomkins spilled a high-ball in the swirling wind, and then conceded a penalty for throwing the ball away in disappointment. Gilmore added the goal, moments after an earlier penalty, to make it 8-0.

The Warriors tidied up their play and earned a first crack on the Widnes line, only for George Williams to spill the ball in heavy traffic as he dived for the line.

Still, it was an improvement, and they built pressure on the visitors’ line without being able to find a breakthrough. Most of their last-play options revolved around Williams’ short kicking, which Widnes easily coped with.

And their failure to capitalise on that territory and possession came back to bite when a piercing break by Sam Wilde ultimately set up the position for his fellow Wiganer, Marsh, to cross in the corner. Gilmore nailed the conversion to open up a 16-point lead.

Again, Wigan got themselves into good positions and, again, they wasted it with a penalty - in possession - and a Taulima Tautai spill. Their persistence paid off just before the break when Burgess dived over in the corner. Tomkins was way off target with his conversion attempt.

From the restart, they dialled up the tempo.

They carved out several chances and while too many passes either went to ground or off the mark, they eventually wore down the Vikings.

Sutton charged over in the 53rd minute for a try, with Morgan Escare taking over the goal-kicking duties and tagging on the extras to reel in the score to 16-10.

Escare was hastily replaced by Thomas Leuluai, who burrowed over for a try on the hour-mark after Joel Tomkins had forced a Widnes error with a crunching tackle. Sam Tomkins took back the kicking role and was wide with an attempt - and booted the cone away in frustration.

Tomkins, though, played a major role in their strong finish. And after Farrell went over, he added a try and struck two goals to round off the night.