Wigan Warriors 16 Warrington Wolves 10

Bevan French spearheaded Wigan to victory in a dramatic Super League opener which saw Chris Hill sent off for a high shot on Sam Powell.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 9:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th January 2020, 10:01 pm
Jake Bibby tackles ex-Warrior Josh Charnley

French scored a sparkling solo try in the first-half and later helped secure the win when he sent Liam Marshall over.

In truth, they made hard work of it against a Wolves outfit which dug deep after losing Hill - and later Mike Cooper to the sinbin.

But, as an opening game, they will be happy to get the two points on the board from a match which saw Jackson Hastings, George Burgess and Jake Bibby make their debuts.

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Of the three, Burgess only played the opening quarter and slipped off two tackles; Bibby and Hastings made greater contributions but French was a clear man of the match in a scratchy team display littered with too many errors.

There was one surprise in the line-up, with Lam handing teenage prop Ethan Havard with a bench spot - for his second appearance of his career - ahead of Mitch Clark, Joe Bullock and England international Joe Greenwood.

Warrington, without marquee Gareth Widdop, had Anthony Gelling on debut against the club where he became a fans' favourite.

Retired Sky Sports pindit Eddie Hemmings, Adrian Morley and Sam Burgess were among the guests for the first game of the 25th Super League campaign - as well as NFL star Kenny Stills.

And they witnessed a full-blooded and dramatic opening half in which Wigan took a 12-10 lead, lost Sam Powell to injury and the visitors had Hill sent off.

Pre-season didn't blow away all the cobwebs, and Warrington were quicker to get into their rhythm. Stefan Ratchford poked them ahead with a ninth minute penalty.

Enjoying the better position and the weight of possession, Wire extended their lead soon after when Ben Murdoch-Masila bounced George Burgess away to get the first try of the new campaign, which Ratchford improved.

Burgess, who didn't figure in pre-season, had missed an earlier tackle on Austin and was soon rested.

Before the quarter-mark, Wigan had settled into their groove, with Hastings linking well with Bevan French. And the latter opened their account in the 18th minute with a moment of magic, ghosting through the Wolves line with a dummy, skip and acceleration. Zak Hardaker, playing as expected at right centre, converted to cut the margin to two points.

And then came the major flashpoint as, on the attack again, Hastings darted towards the line and fed Powell in support. The hooker caught the ball and was just about to go over when Hill's swinging arm knocked him to the ground and - as he was being treated on the pitch - Hill was sent off.

Hardaker hit the conversion after Powell was sportingly applauded off. With four forwards on the bench, Leuluai switched to hooker and Sean OLoughlin into the halves.

A Ratchford penalty kept the Wolves in touching distance as Austin tried to inspire the 12-man outfit. The GB winger lodged a complaint of gouging with referee Chris Kendall, who placed the incident on report.

By the lofty standard set by the first-half, the action dipped from the restart. Wigan looked surprisingly flustered, given their advantage numerically and on the scoreboard, and Wire worked hard to cover for Hill's absence.

It wasn't until midway through the half before the hosts really troubled the scoreboard - and even then it was from a scoop of good luck, with Kendall missing a Joe Burgess knock-on in the build-up. The left winger was held up moments later after Wigan elected to run a penalty.

French - who switched to stand-off for a spell - went closest to increasing Wigan's lead, stabbing the kick on to chase and then tumbling in an off-the-ball tackle. Kendall referred the decision to the video official, who awarded th hosts a penaty and sinbinned Cooper.

Against 11 men, it was no surprise Wigan put width on the ball as French fired a long pass for Marshall to cross in the 65th minute. Hardaker's conversion was off-target, keeping a one-score buffer between the sides, but the Warriors looked in the ascendancy.

Burgess' blazing 80m break was wasted by Liam Farrell's knock-on and moments later, Hardaker was denied by the video referee, and another attack was thwarted by a stubborn Wire defence. A drop-goal may have given them some breathing space but they held on for victory.

Wigan: French; Marshall, Hardaker, Bibby, J Burgess; Leuluai, Hastings; Partington, Powell, G Burgess, Isa, Farrell, O'Loughlin. Subs: Byrne, Clubb, Havard, Smithies

Warrington: Ashton; Lineham, Gelling, King, Charnley; Austin, Ratchford; Hill, Clark, Cooper, Currie, Murdoch Masila, Clark. Subs: Philbin, Akauola, Walker, Burrell.

Referee: Chris Kendall

Half-time: 12-10

Attendance: 15,040