SEAN O’Loughlin has heaped praised on Ben Flower after a string of powerful performances in the pack.
The 25-year-old has been left as Wigan’s most senior front-rower after a string of injuries depleted Shaun Wane’s squad.
He was again superb in laying the foundations for Friday’s 38-0 victory over Catalan – a team renowned for dominating opposing packs. It followed eye-catching displays in the early rounds which haven’t gone unnoticed by skipper O’Loughlin. “Ben has been very good for us,” he said. “The way he carries the ball, and the hits he has put in, have been fantastic.
“Last year he had Jeff Lima here, as well as the blokes we have now who are injured – Epa Lauaki, Paul Prescott and Lee Mossop – which was a lot of experience to lean on.
“But now he’s the most senior prop at the moment and he’s really stepped up to the mark for us.”
Flower’s fellow front-rowers are all 22 while second-rower Greg Burke, 20, has also burst into the side this year.
“Dom Crosby and Greg have come in, everyone can see how well they’re doing,” said O’Loughlin.
“For me, what’s pleasing is they’ve not had a lot of senior players around them.
“Ideally you want to ease them in when you’re doing well, but they’ve had to be thrown in because of the way our injuries have gone and they’ve done really well.
“When we’re picking wins up with them here it’s great – and when we do get some more senior players back, it will give us confidence.”
O’Loughlin believes the manner of their last two victories will serve as the perfect preparation for their testing run into Easter.
As well as hammering Catalan 38-0, they held their nerve to edge a thriller at Castleford a week earlier, with O’Loughlin inspiring a 28-22 win. The second-placed Warriors tackle Leeds and St Helens in the space of two weeks, with a tie against in-form Widnes sandwiched in the middle.
“Keeping Catalan to nil was a big thing,” he said. “Waney is very demanding with our defence and he’s a tough task master.
“Leeds will be another step up, but these last two wins have been good for us – not only having the to win games like the one against Catalan and keep them to nil, but also to grind them out like we did the week before.”