Wigan Warriors 58 Salford Red Devils 12
They showed attacking flair and excitement to rack up their biggest win of the season, to tighten their grip on second spot.
And leading the way was Aussie full-back French, who registered two long-range tries before the break and a third after.
Between his wizardry there were many other aspects for the Wigan fans to admire – from the craft of Sam Powell and Jackson Hastings, to another towering display from two-try Liam Farrell, and an overall cohesion, hunger and excitement from the side.
It was certainly the type of dominant performance which they wanted ahead of next Friday’s derby against St Helens – the only Super League side Adrian Lam has yet to beat as coach.
Wigan threw away a 14-2 lead to go down 18-14 in their last meeting with Salford – their final game before lockdown in March.
But there seemed no danger they would make the same mistake after taking a 30-6 lead into half-time.
They led from the 90 seconds, when Powell scored the first of his two tries. But it was a team-mate’s try-tally which was on everyone’s lips at the break.
French exhibited pace, acceleration and incredible footwork – particularly for his eye-catching second – and was highly involved in many of their stylish attacks.
Salford made errors which suggested they had been sapped of energy from the Challenge Cup Final defeat six days earlier. Wigan, by contrast, looked far more fresh, crisp and precise.
Joe Burgess, Oliver Gildart and Ben Flower returned from short lay-offs while Tony Clubb played his first match in seven months after recovering from a spinal injury.
Dom Manfredi dropped out with a slight knee problem – Jake Bibby took his place on the right flank – while there was no place in the side for young halfback Harry Smith.
Powell gave them a dream start, muscling over from close range after 90 seconds.
And after a dominant spell in which Liam Farrell and Joe Bullock went close, Powell scored a copycat – although there were question marks over the grounding, before it was given the green light by the video referee.
There was no controversy a minute later as Farrell supported Burgess’ break and arced under the sticks. With Zak Hardaker hitting his third conversion, Wigan led by 18 points after as many minutes.
It was all good good – and then French made it great.
He sparked the move from defusing a kick, crabbing across the chasing defensive line, feeding Bibby and his vicious step saw him break through and find the Aussie on his shoulder.
On the half-hour, Kallum Watkins brushed far too easily past Gildart to get Salford’s first try.
But the Warriors restored their 24 point advantage as French showed speed and exceptional footwork to scorch through a scattered defence.
Tui Lolohea struck first from the restart to hint of a Red Devils fightback, but any thin hopes they had were rapidly extinguished with a quickfire double salvo.
Hastings drifted to the right and linked well with Willie Isa to finish off a silky attack and, in the 50th minute, French and Hastings combined well to unleash Gildart in the corner.
Hardaker missed the first goal of the match but, at 40-12, they were well in control.
And they showed no signs of easing their foot off the acceleration. Farrell – moved to the middle with the introduction of Joe Greenwood – strolled over with ease to ensure Wigan passed their previous highest points tally this year, of 42.
With the win in the bag, there was always the danger the game may peter out as a spectacle. But French helped ensure that wouldn’t happen, conjuring a try from little to complete his hat-trick shortly after Salford had lost Mark Flanagan to injury.
And Gildart had the final say from Hastings’ good work.
Wigan: French; Bibby, Hardaker, Gildart, J Burgess; Leuluai, Hastings; Bullock, Powell, Singleton, Isa, Farrell, Partington. Subs: Flower, Greenwood, Clubb, Smithies
Salford: Ashall-Bott; Williams, Watkins, Kear, Inu; Lolohea, Atkin; Mossop, Lussick, Yates, Roberts, Greenwood, McCarthy. Subs: Ackers, Flanagan, Burke, Pauli