Leigh Centurions 14 Wigan Warriors 22

Shaun Wane
Shaun Wane

Gabriel Hamlin scored a try in his first appearance as Wigan blew away the cobwebs in a useful friendly at the Sports Village.

Australian prop Hamlin crossed in the second-half to put them 16-10 ahead and, though Leigh pegged a try back, Jake Shorrocks secured the win late on.

Being a friendly, there were plenty of errors and mistakes, but the exchanges were physical and the tight scoreline provided an entertaining finish in the freezing rain.

Indeed, given the conditions - and the frequent changes - it was difficult for anyone to really impress but Sam Tomkins and Hamlin had some strong involvements.

Wigan had only won one of five of these annual pre-season fixtures, but Shaun Wane fielded a much-stronger line-up than in previous years.

Recruits Hamlin and Dan Sarginson both figured in a strong Warriors side missing only John Bateman, Sean O’Loughlin and long-term absentee Dom Manfredi.

Three players - Romain Navarrete, Liam Marshall and youngster Craig Mullen - backed up from Friday’s 54-12 win at London Skolars, while Ben Flower and Morgan Escare played their first matches since suffering season-ending injuries last May.

Centurions have assembled a new-look squad since their relegation from Super League last year. Many of those newcomers figured, including ex-Warrior Nick Gregson from an extended bench.

Both squads formed a guard of honour before kick-off for Mickey Higham, who was playing the final game of an 18-year career.

Hooker Higham, who spent three seasons at Wigan earlier in his career, has retired to take up a community and coaching role with hometown club, Leigh.

Tomkins started at full-back, with Sam Powell partnering George Williams at halfback and Thomas Leuluai moving to hooker.

But when Leuluai was rested before half-time, Escare replaced him and went to full-back, with Tomkins moving into the halves and Powell to hooker - an early hint, perhaps, of how Shaun Wane may operate his playmakers.

Sarginson was given a harsh reintroduction to the British game, losing the ball early under a bone-jarring tackle. And from that mistake, Leigh worked their way down field and opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Higham’s short-pass sent big prop Paterika Vaivai crashing over. Ben Reynolds converted to make it 6-0.

Wigan lost two players inside a minute, as winger Joe Burgess came off with a hip injury, and then prop Tony Clubb was guided off for a concussion assessment. Marshall and Frank-Paul Nuuausala replaced them.

They scored two tries before the break to take a 10-6 lead, with George Williams heavily involved in both.

The England halfback fed Tomkins, and he jinked through the Leigh line for a 14th-minute try which he couldn’t convert. For their second, Williams stabbed the ball into the ingoal and classy Oliver Gildart was the quickest to react.

This time, Tomkins - who looks set to start with the goal-kicking duties - tagged on the extras.

With both sides rolling the substitutions, Hamlin made his first appearance for Wigan and settled in well.

Leigh centre Peter Mata’Utia cut through the vistors’ right side to lock the scores before half-time.

Wigan started the second-half with a little more intent, but a rare mistake from Tom Davies gave their goal-line defence a thorough test. There were few chances on the heavy pitch, but Escare showed some electric touches, and fellow Frenchman Romain Navarette also caught the eye with a couple of surging charges.

The Warriors powered ahead in the 54th minute, Hamlin crossing under the sticks for a try Tomkins converted to make it 16-10. But after a brief scuffle, Leigh quickly responded when Jack Owens punished a weak right-edge for a try Reynolds couldn’t convert. Sarginson left the pitch with a bloodied nose, just moments after Williams had suffered the same injury.

Wigan blew a chance to extend their lead, youngster Mullen slipping into touch after Gildart had raced down field from Liam Farrell’s break.

Higham came off the bench to finish his final game and did his best to conjure a match-winning late score for his side. But Wigan secured the win when Shorrocks, playing his first match in nearly a year, went over for a try which Escare converted.

Wigan will send a team to Swinton next Sunday, but many of their frontline players are expected to be rested as the season starts just five days later, at Salford.

Leigh: Hall; Dawson, Crooks, Mata’utia, Bergal; Reynolds, Hutchison; Vaivai, Higham, Acton, Larroyer, Hansen, Thompson. Subs: Mortimer, Lovett, Richards, Cunningham, Hood, Owens, Gregson, Blagbrough, Patrick, Dezaria.

Wigan: S Tomkins; Davies, Sarginson, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Powell; Clubb, Leuluai, Flower, J Tomkins, Farrell, Sutton. Subs: Escare, Field, Hamlin, Isa, Marshall, Mullen, Navarrete, Nuuausala, Shorrocks, Tautai, Wells.

Referee: Robert Hicks

Half-time: 10-10

Attendance: 4,509