Wigan Warriors 20 Leigh 0

George Williams helped Wigan stretch their winning start to the season in the first league derby between these sides in 12 years.

Friday, 3rd March 2017, 9:10 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:04 am
Wigan Warriors' Anthony Gelling scores his team's third try

The stand-off’s accurate boot laid on two tries for Anthony Gelling, sandwiching a solo effort early in the second-half which calmed the home side’s nerves.

The win came at a cost, with wingers Joe Burgess and Lewis Tierney - as well as prop Ryan Sutton - not finishing the match, Wigan’s first at the DW Stadium since their World Club Challenge triumph.

The loss of both of their wingers, coupled with the heavy pitch and wet conditions, dictated the tone of the match; it was never going to be a free-scoring free-for-all.

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Wigan Warriors' Joe Burgess leaves the pitch with an injury

But Wigan were tough when they needed to be, and with Williams adding his polish, had the flair to register three tries.

Morgan Escare, who has made a superb start to his Wigan career, chipped in with four goals.

It was far from a classic match - there were far too many errors for that - but it was entertaining for different reasons: the derby atmosphere, the tight scoreline and some bone-jarring exchanges.

Leigh were full of fire and physical, but lacked the attacking quality to pierce the home defence or trouble their line.

Wigan Warriors' Joe Burgess leaves the pitch with an injury

Still, at half-time it was only 6-0 with Gelling’s converted try, scored in the seventh minute, all that was separating the sides. Wigan had even attempted a penalty goal - and two drop-goals - before the break, to no avail.

Wane used Oliver Gildart’s absence with a minor shoulder injury to give promising youngster Liam Marshall a debut. He started on the left-wing, with Joe Burgess switching to centre to accommodate the 20-year-old son of former Wigan player Dave.

This was the first league game between these sides at this ground in 12 years; Wigan’s backrow that day was Danny Tickle, Harrison Hansen and Sean O’Loughlin, who were all involved in this, albeit with two in the Centurions ranks.

Neil Jukes, a proud Wiganer who cut his coaching teeth at Ince Rose Bridge, also had Micky Higham at hooker while ex-Warrior Gareth Hock made his first return to his hometown ground since leaving in 2012.

Leigh headed into the game buoyed by a 24-16 win against St Helens the previous week, and were well-supported by 3,000 travelling fans.

Wane had pinpointed the start as being crucial, and the early exchanges were fast and physical.

Burgess, so deadly already this season with six tries in three games, was ushered into touch in Wigan’s first attack.

But they didn’t have to wait too long before taking the initiative.

Williams floated a measured kick over the Leigh defence for Lewis Tierney to chase, and after a scramble for the ball, he fed the supporting Gelling to canter over under the sticks. Escare tagged on the extras and - from the restart - forced a drop-out with a brilliant rushing defensive effort.

But the big hits proved contagious; from the next play, Hansen and Higham floored Frank-Paul Nuuausala with a crunching tackle which forced ‘the wrecking ball’ off the field for a concussion assessment, from which he soon returned.

Leigh, to their credit, improved and the game settled into a physical blinking competition - with a few errors thrown into the mix.

Wigan had scoring chances, most notably when Burgess weaved through into space but was closed down, and when Ben Flower spilled the ball close to the line.

The miserable conditions led to handling errors on both sides, and after Burgess had hobbled off - he initially tried to play on, but crumpled to the ground - there was a brief flare-up between Micky Higham and Tony Clubb which dragged in players from both teams.

Seemingly becoming frustrated with their inability to trouble Leigh’s line in the last five minutes of the half, Wigan elected to kick a penalty and had two shots at a drop-goal - by Sean O’Loughlin and Escare - all of which were off target.

Leigh sensed they could draw level early in the second-half, but a breakaway Ben Crooks was hauled back for a knock-on.

Wigan’s attack was further hampered by Tierney’s withdrawal at half-time, which forced Gelling onto the wing and Joel Tomkins back into his old centre spot.

They opted for the direct route for their next score and, after Clubb had gone close, Williams crossed when he cut back towards the post, and his sharp footwork found a way through. Escare tagged on the extras - an attempted drop-goal minutes later was charged down.

Ryan Sutton became the third player to leave the pitch injured - he needed a concussion test after a clash with Matty Dawson, who moments later went close to scoring Leigh’s opening try after nice approach work down their left side.

Escare nudged the home side into a three-score lead with a 67th minute penalty after Nuuausala was caught high by Hock.

And two minutes later, they wrapped the game up when Williams danced through the defence and - seeing his path to the line blocked - had the vision to angle a kick to the right wing, where Gelling picked up to score. Escare masterfully added the conversion from the touchdown, and Wigan had enough character in defence to thwart Leigh’s late attempts to avoid the ‘nil’.

Wigan: Escare; Tierney, Gelling, Burgess, Marshall; Williams, Leuluai; Nuuausala, Powell, Flower, Isa, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Subs: Tomkins, Clubb, Tautai, Sutton.

Leigh: Brown; Dawson, Crooks, Tonga, Naughton; Reynolds, Drinkwater; Hock, Higham, Green, Tickle, Vea, Hansen. Subs: Pelissier, Hopkins, Acton, Burr.

Referee: Robert Hicks

Half-time: 6-0

Attendance: 15,699

Starman: George Williams