Five things we learned from Wigan’s 14-0 semi-final win against Castleford...
1. No, it wasn’t a dream - Wigan are heading back to Old Trafford!
They will battle for the Super League trophy in next Saturday’s Grand Final - against the team they defeated in 2013 and 2016, Warrington.
Fans have already been snapping up their tickets and a 70,000 crowd is expected at the showcase decider, though supporters will need to plan their travel - staff at Northern are on strike next Saturday.
2. Wigan appeared in control throughout this match, but the scoreboard made it nervous.
Leading 7-0 at halftime and then 11-0 midway through the second-half, fans knew just one converted try by the Tigers could set-up a finger-nail biting finish. But a late penalty, and drop-goal, sparked the celebrations.
Sam Tomkins provided 10 of Wigan’s 14 points, following Thomas Leuluai’s opening touchdown. But this wasn’t about their attack as much as...
3. Their brutal defence.
Watching Wigan tackle provides as much enjoyment and satisfaction as seeing them with the ball.
Whether it’s Thomas Leuluai’s bone-jarring shots, Oliver Gildart containing opposite centre Michael Shenton or the desire of their line-defence to choke out half-chances, this was great to see.
TV personality Vernon Kay, a former St John Rigby College student, tweeted: “NFL needs to watch this Super League game. Some great tackles!”
Wigan defended like a team desperate for success. They played like a team wanting to win for themselves, their club and for their coach. And on the coach...
4. Shaun Wane doesn’t look like the type of bloke who cries a lot.
But emotions got the better of him afterwards as he celebrated on the DW pitch afterwards, accompanied by grandson Teddy.
There were similar emotions from departing Tomkins, Ryan Sutton and John Bateman, who had a moment - alone - staring out at the DW pitch a few minutes after the full-time whistle (see picture, inset).
Wane is now preparing for his fifth Grand Final in seven years (and yes, the two ‘gap’ years featured different silverware!). He left the DW, as Wigan coach, for one final time last night.
His 30-year association with Wigan - as a player, scout, volunteer, junior coach, academy coach, assistant coach and their fifth-longest serving head coach - is nearly over.
5. A final word on Castleford, who just didn’t show the form which earned them a semi-final spot.
They spilled way too much ball, their last-play options were poor and - certainly in the first-half - their high tackles saw the penalty count creep up.
“Tonight highlighted the fact that our mentality as a collective unit needs to change,” said coach Daryl Powell.