Wigan Warriors 22 Castleford Tigers 12: Five things we learned
Five things we learned from Wigan's 22-12 victory against Castleford on Thursday evening...
1. Bevan French is back with a bang.
Adrian Lam said in the week it may take a few weeks for him to find his feet again yet added: "But... this is Bevan French remember. He may score a hat-trick."
French didn't go that far, but a try in either half showed he had lost none of his acceleration, speed or anticipation.
Arguably more impressive was how sharp he looked overall, defusing a number of high balls - as he drifted in from wing to a full-back spot - and pulling off a fabulous tackle with almost prevented Derrell Olpherts from touching down one of his try.
2. It should have have been on TV.
Both sides went into the match unbeaten, and it was a tense, quality showdown only settled with seven minutes to go, which deserved to be witnessed by more people.
As it was, season ticket holders were given access codes to watch the game via a feed on the OurLeague website/app - but many reported problems. Those without season tickets couldn't 'buy a pass' due to the broadcasting deal.
3. Much has been made of players switching positions in recent weeks due to the number of injuries in the backs.
Zak Hardaker, Willie Isa, Liam Farrell, Jake Bibby, now Bevan French.
Here's another - Morgan Smithies.
The young forward has been more accustomed to a role in the middle since bursting into Adrian Lam's side.
Yet with Farrell at centre, he has switched to the left second-row spot and done a brilliant job. He runs some nice, punchy angles and - like Farrell in that role - has a good link-up with the impressive halfback, Jackson Hastings.
4. With a completion rate tipping 90 per cent, Wigan should be satisfied.
They were were consistent both in terms of performances across the field, and minute one to 80 - there were no real lapses or dips.
Their defensive effort was aggressive and well-drilled defensive effort and after another slow, bumpy start (they have yet to score early this year) Wigan's attack had purpose and tempo.
Lam again mentioned areas to improve, which may include some niggling penalties and ruck infringements.
But with the side maintaining their perfect start to the season, this was a win to be proud of - and special mention to Ollie Partington for his 50th Wigan appearance and Zak Hardaker, whose try and three goals nudged him past the 1,000 career points mark.
5. The West Stand concourse of the DW Stadium still had posters for the 2020 Cheltenham Festival - a reminder the venue has had no fans for the past year due to the pandemic.
The large, vacuous venue felt soulless without fans - the sooner they are back, even in limited numbers, the better.
For Wigan, it was only their second match at the venue in 14 months, but they won't have to wait long to return - they face Hull FC at home next Thursday. Interestingly, FC are the opponents the following week in the Challenge Cup, too.