Five things we learned from Wigan’s 16-10 defeat to Warrington...
1. When it comes to producing some cracking games, these two sides have plenty of previous.
This was definitely not one of them.
The game was littered with unforced errors and frequently interrupted by the trill of James Child’s whistle.
Warrington were good value for the win, in that if Wigan were 5/10, their opponents scored 6/10. After poking ahead, the Wolves at least had the defensive grit and smartness to hang onto their lead.
But there was little quality on the damp DW surface, which looked like a bowling green before kick-off, but deteriorated by the end.
2. Wigan’s performance - where to start?
After a four-game streak without defeat since key players returned to the side, this was definitely a step back. Their attack was plodding and predictable, and - aside from neat first-half tries from Oliver Gildart and John Bateman - caused Warrington few problems.
But to focus solely on their attack would distract from their other issues - spilled ball (13), penalties (11 conceded), failure to win the ruck, and an overall lack of urgency.
Their French raid five days earlier may have proved taxing, but that will be no excuse for Shaun Wane.
Recalled winger Liam Marshall - who had scored eight tries in three games against the Wolves - had arguably his first off-day in a Wigan shirt. It will be little comfort that he was not alone, with several experienced players - Thomas Leuluai, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, we could go on - also enduring off-days. Tony Clubb’s strong display from the bench was a rare positive.
3. The defeat put a dampener on Sean O’Loughlin’s milestone 400th game for Wigan.
Shame, because the club had done such a good job in paying tribute to his achievement; Pat Richards, Andy and Owen Farrell were among those who featured on a video tribute beforehand.
The last player to reach the milestone, Shaun Edwards, watched the game from the directors’ box as well as another member of the exclusive ‘400 club’, Billy Boston.
4. It remains to be seen how damaging this defeat was to Wigan’s hopes of climbing the table into the play-offs spots.
The current top-four meet tonight - Castleford v Salford, Leeds v Hull FC - and, with points inevitably dropped by two of those sides (or three, if there’s a draw), the Warriors have let a glorious chance to make-up further ground slip through their fingers.
Wane, back in the hot seat after hip surgery, nodded to a ‘them against us’ mentality afterwards when he said: “We’ll be okay, we’ll finish the season strong. I know people don’t want us to - but we will.”
Their next two games will go a huge way to shaping their season; they host Leeds on Friday in the second instalment of the Big One Week, and then play Salford in a Challenge Cup semi-final.
They will discover on Monday if there are any charges from the match – Joe Burgess was spoken to, but not punished, for pulling Ashton Simms’ hair-knot during one skirmish.
5. Ben Currie provided the national newspapers and websites with an easy intro with his match-changing try in his first game in 10 months, but it was good to see the England prospect back after such a serious knee injury.
Warrington still appear doomed for the Qualifiers (or Middle-8s, as they are better known). They will need Huddersfield to lose their remaining two games - including to Leigh, tonight - and beat Widnes next week to avoid a bottom-four finish before the Super-8s begin.
But with Currie back on board and recent recruits Peta Hiku and Ben Pomeroy shoring up their leaky right-edge, Tony Smith’s side - like Leeds last season - are showing enough improvement to suggest they will avoid any slip-ups in the scrap for Super League survival.