Wigan v St Helens: Talking Points
Five talking points from Wigan's 14-6 defeat to St Helens on Thursday evening.
1. Stopping St Helens this season is going to take some effort, even if Thursday’s derby didn’t prove it.
The match was certainly entertaining, but it lacked those quality moments which can leave supporters gobsmacked.
Despite the relatively close scoreline, Saints always looked in control as they took their 100th league win over Wigan from the 255 derbies played between them since 1895.
Now that lot on the other side of Billinge Hill have a 10-point cushion over Wigan, have all but sewn-up the League Leaders’ Shield and are still in the Challenge Cup.
But experience tells us things can change drastically in the Super 8s – and while Saints are pretty much sure of a play-off spot, Wigan’s form going into the semi-finals could be key to blocking their’ path.
2. Going into battle with a patched-up side doesn’t always invoke the spirit of 2003 or 2005.
In April 2003 an injury-riddled Warriors side weren’t given a chance before fighting back to beat Saints 24-22, and under similar circumstance in 2005 Wigan won 22-20.
This time there was no epic comeback or headline act to add to the YouTube watchlist in years to come, and in fairness Saints had their own injury problems.
But what the match lacked in quality it made up for in pace and excitement. It had its moments, and flashpoints such as John Bateman’s tackle on Tommy Makinson when the Saints winger had broken clear were worth noting.
Wigan/Saints derbies don’t need every headliner on the field in order to produce the goods, but this one won’t be remembered in years to come...
3. .. except by Warriors centre Chris Hankinson.
Okay, so he didn’t get the dream start in a Warriors jersey by grabbing a win over Saints, but he certainly didn’t look out of place.
The signing from Swinton only arrived at the club on Tuesday and was thrown straight in with Oliver Gildart (broken thumb) and cover centres Jack Higginson (knee), Liam Forsyth (knee) and James Worthington (foot) all out injured.
Despite the daunting prospect, Hankinson carried the ball well after nerves produced an early error and he finished well in credit.
4. Thursday nights…
Last night’s attendance of 16,047 was Wigan’s highest home gate of the regular season, assuming the figure isn’t beaten when Catalans visit next week which isn’t likely.
The home Super 8s gate in 2016 against Saints was lower at 15,265, but a regular season clash, booked in the calendar months in advance, deserves more.
Granted, the atmosphere inside the DW Stadium on Thursday night was as you’d expect from a derby. There was plenty of noise for a game which is always about more than the league points on offer.
But Thursday games do shave off a few thousand from an attendance with work commitments and the fact schools haven’t quite yet broken-up for summer – and Warriors have been unlucky with scheduling this season as last month’s visit of Leeds was also on a Thursday, watched by 10,645.
5. We haven’t found the new Frano Botica.
It was a pleasure to cover the game for sports editor Phil Wilkinson while he took a well-earned night off to celebrate his 40th birthday.
A few of us had joked during the week he’d be thrown into the squad as a present – given Wigan’s injury woes – but he still managed to find his way onto the pitch.
Taking part in a kicking challenge for a charity of his choice, Phil had five attempts to kick a ball into a target and raise some money for Joseph’s Goal.
He did manage to raise Â£50 – despite not landing a shot.