Wigan got their Super League season off to a flying start. Here are five things we learned...
1. It wasn’t a lack of success which spoiled Wigan’s 2017 season, but a lack of enjoyment.
Shaun Wane vowed to address the issue in the off-season, and there were clear signs he had succeeded as Wigan cut loose with five second-half tries including three efforts from inside their own half.
They attacked with speed, precision and flair. There was more ball movement, and more bodies in motion, which plucked the Salford defence out of shape.
The win was good. The style of the win was richly encouraging.
2. Wigan’s ploy of rotating the play-makers worked well.
Instead of carrying a hooker on the bench, Wane replaced No.9 Thomas Leuluai with fit-again full-back Morgan Escare. In the reshuffle, No.1 Sam Tomkins moved into the halves and Sam Powell nudged up to dummy-half - with Leuluai returning for the final quarter.
The biggest indication it was a success was perhaps the fact it went largely unnoticed - there was no disruption when the ‘spine’ was changed.
It was great to see Escare, and prop Ben Flower, back in action after their campaigns were cut short by injury.
3. Oliver Gildart has admitted he wants Wigan’s left side to be the best ‘edge’ in Super League.
It is too soon to say if they can lay claim to that tag, but they made a promising start. Liam Marshall was drafted in to replace Joe Burgess and scored two second-half tries - including a cheeky chip-over on the half-volley.
Gildart finished with two tries himself, while Escare also finished off a sweeping move down that channel.
“Wigan’s left edge tore us apart,” admitted Salford coach Ian Watson. “We knew all about it and had prepped for it - but dealing with it is something else.”
4. The 7.30pm kick-off polarised opinion.
With no video referee to delay proceedings, the early-start allowed those with children get home at a more reasonable hour (and those without to get to the pub!).
But given the AJ Bell Stadium is located just a Pat Richards drop-out away from the busy M60, many fans complained they were stuck in heavy traffic trying to reach the ground in time.
5. Salford gave as good as they got during a tight and pacey opening half, but couldn’t keep pace with Wigan when they stepped up a gear.
They have some good players, a smart coach and with Robert Lui pulling the strings, they can pose a threat. But with such a thin squad, they may struggle to cope once injuries begin to bite.
The Red Devils were missing Mark Flanagan and Logan Tomkins against Wigan, and coach Watson confirmed afterwards winger Manu Vatuvei may be out for the year. They need reinforcements, and fast.