Salford Red Devils 26 Wigan Warriors 30

Wigan, it seems, don't do dull.

Monday, 22nd April 2019, 5:08 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd April 2019, 6:14 pm
Joe Burgess

They don't do boring and they certainly don't make it easy on themselves.

They raced into a 14-0 lead but once again lapsed to allow their opponents to take a lead - and left facing a fourth straight defeat.

But during a frantic, unbearable final few minutes, Zak Hardaker swept over to put them back in front and they clung on to claim a much-needed victory.

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If this had been a Thursday night Sky game, it would have been entertaining for those without a vested interest.

But, of course, for Wigan and their followers, they desperately needed the two points after plunging to joint-bottom of the ladder over Easter.

It was nervy and it was scrappy and it was littered with errors, but anyone would have taken a win - any win - before kick-off.

And now, a monkey shaken from their back, they are in a good platform to kick on with games against Castleford and London, both at home, in the next 10 days.

Joe Burgess, Oliver Gildart and Joe Greenwood were Wigan's biggest threats individually, without showing the lethal cohesion of recent weeks.

Salford had their moments too and in Jackson Hastings they have one of the competition's craftiest and most skillful halfback.

The drama began before kick-off.

Sean O'Loughlin was a late withdrawal, taking the number of absentees to eight through either injury or suspension and opening up a chance for another youngster - hooker Amir Bourouh - to make his Wigan debut.

He was introduced before the break and the compact No.9 was keen to get involved, offering sharp distribution and energy in defence.

Adrian Lam also made a tactical change, starting Morgan Escare at full-back and switching Zak Hardaker to right centre.

The Warriors had already registered one win on this ground, beating Salford 30-22, but contrasting results on Good Friday - the Red Devils beat Warrington 36-12 while Wigan were being gunned down by Saints - put a different complexion on this match.

In warm but breezy conditions, the intensity of the opening half soon made way for scrappy and niggly passages - a symptom, perhaps, of two games in four days.

Wigan started the brighter and after winning a penalty from Jackson Hastings' high tackle on Jake Shorrrocks, they swung the ball to the left where Joe Burgess dived over for his ninth try in last five games.

Hardaker - not as involved, at centre - did well to convert from the sidelines and moments later added a penalty to make it 8-0.

Wigan were doing well but they were aided and abetted by their hosts, who kicked out on the full for a second successive time.

And when Joe Bullock charged through an opening to score under the sticks, easing Hardaker's conversion, they led 14-0. Escare added some energy to a tiring side and Chris Hankinson was used as a back-rower, to good effect.

Salford, though, tidied up their play. They began to edge the territory battle and that was reflected when George Griffin angled over for a try, converted by early-season recruit Krisnan Inu.

Wigan were placed on a team warning by Ben Thaler but they regained their composure before the break, Morgan Smithies and George Williams going close as they bombarded the hosts' line, to no avail.

Early in the second-half, the Red Devils cut the margin to two points when their main threat, Hastings, slipped through and Niall Evalds - who has an admirable knack for being in the right place at the right time - was in support. Inu's goal reeled in Wigan's lead to 14-12.

The visitors had the perfect tonic, sweeping down field well and Greenwood punching his way through for a try which Hardaker converted to restore an eight-point lead.

But they relapsed yet again as Salford scored twice - both from short-range - before the 65th minute mark to take a 24-20 lead.

First, Adam Walker barged over and then Joey Lussick darted through from dummy-half.

Inu added both conversions and when Gildart was pinged for a tackle infringement, the centre added a penalty to give them a 26-20 lead.

The game took another twist when Daniel Olpherts coughed up possession bringing back an early carry and, gifted the unexpected possession, Wigan made it count when Greenwood thundered over for his second try. Hardaker had been impeccable with the boot but his conversion to level the scores rebounded off the upright, leaving Wigan trailing by two points.

With the clock ticking and nerves it was initially a poor kick from Williams. He slicked it; but he challenged for the ball, regained possession, swung to the right and Hardaker cut through

Salford again regained possession from the restart, and Wigan scrambled well to keep them out during a tense, nerve-shredding final two minutes.

Salford: Evalds; Bibby, Inu, Sa'u, Olpherts; Wood, Hastings; Walker, Tomkins, Dudson, Jones, Griffin, Burke. Subs: Lussick, Murray, Nakubuwai, McCarthy.

Wigan: Escare; Marshall, Hardaker, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Shorrocks; Flower, Leuluai, Bullock, Isa, Greenwood, Partington. Subs: Tautai, Smithies, Hankinson, Bourouh.

Referee: Ben Thaler

Half-time: 6-14

Attendance: 4,017

Warriors starman: Joe Greenwood