Salford 16 Wigan Warriors 34

Wigan's Darrell Goulding is tackled
Wigan's Darrell Goulding is tackled

DEBUTANT Blake Green showed plenty of classy touches as Wigan turned up the heat in snowy Salford.

Josh Charnley’s double helped Wigan establish a 24-4 lead at the break in blustery, snowy conditions which kept even many of the die-hards away.

Their second-half performance was less dominant but there was still much to admire, not least the contribution of Green.

The Aussie recruit was making his first appearance for Shaun Wane’s men since moving from Hull KR.

And in a clinical, professional team outing he certainly left the fans – and coaching staff – with plenty of encouragement ahead of the start of the new Super League season two weeks today.

It wasn’t a dazzling display from the stand-off, and there were few signs of the attacking running
game which is one of his key attributes.

But he played with a real attacking urgency, bossing the players around him and marshalling the left flank efficiently.

His pass selection was smart, his distribution was sharp and his slick link-up with Matty Smith showed none of the jitters and uncertainty often found in new half-back partnerships.

Having given his youngsters a chance in the defeats against Leigh and Hull KR, Wane rolled out the big guns last night, although Sam Tomkins, Epa Lauaki (rested) and Lee Mossop (sickness) were still the key absentees, as well as Gareth Hock, of course, whose future has been the subject of intense speculation.

Salford had good reason to put on a show – they were watched by prospective new owner Dr Marwan Koukash, ahead of his expected takeover in the coming days.

But they could hardly have asked for a worse start. They allowed Pat Richards’ looming kick-off to bounce, gifting Wigan possession from the resulting drop-out from which Jack Hughes cut through the defence to send them on their way with a second-minute try.

With Smith and Green directing play astutely, they grabbed their second minutes later, Darrell Goulding unselfishly offloading basketball-style for Charnley’s first. Richards tagged on one of the conversions to make it 10-0.

But Wigan’s momentum was disrupted by the trill of Steve Ganson’s whistle, who gave three quickfire penalties against them - handing the Reds the position to reply, even if it was in fortuitous circumstances as Chris Nero hacked on a spilled ball and touched down.

Ganson was influencing proceedings heavily.

And normal service was resumed when the referee piggybacking Wigan down field with his penalties, and skipper Sean O’Loughlin – fit after an off-season knee operation – plucked the defence out of shape to cross.

On the 20-minute mark, Jack Murphy punished the same area for a try, but Salford improved and tried to make a contest of the rest of the half, giving Wigan’s defence a stern workout before Charnley grabbed his second in carbon copy fashion to his first.

Wane blooded some of his fringe players either side of half-time, Smith one of the players to make way – but replacement Chris Tuson lasted only a few minutes before hobbling off with a leg injury.

Hughes, strong at left centre, did well to deny Danny Williams in the corner. And then the player charged with filling George Carmont’s sizeable boots displayed his attacking prowess, too, slipping a ball out in the tackle for winger Iain Thornley to power to the line.

Charnley took over the
goal-kicking duties from Richards, and surprisingly hit the post and missed from right in front.

Smith returned from the bench and made an instant impression, scorching over from 30m out after Paul Prescott had exploited a gaping hole in Reds’ line.

But to their credit Salford didn’t fold, and Gareth Owen’s 66th scrappy effort – followed by a try from Theo Fages – spoke volumes of the home side’s plucky endurance.