Five things we learned from Wigan’s 42-22 victory against Catalans at the DW Stadium yesterday...
1. Forget a game of two halves - this was one of four quarters!
Wigan looked well in control as they established a 16-0 lead by the 20-minute mark.... only to have it pegged back to 16-16 at half-time.
The third quarter was a tense affair, with Catalans taking a two-point lead.
But from the hour-mark, Wigan cut loose with four unanswered tries to secure an ultimately-comfortable win.
2. Games after the Easter weekend can often fall flat and, by that marker, this was an entertaining contest.
Sure, there were embarrassing lapses - Morgan Escare will not want to watch his spill which led to Tony Gigot’s try - but the home side scored some nice tries themselves.
And credit to Wigan for targeting a fixture which isn’t usually well-attended and making it feel more like an event, with family-fun activities before kick-off and - being St George’s Day - a tribute to the Armed Forces. The match-ball was even delivered by the Red Devils parachute team (one appeared to be too close to the stand roof for comfort!). Video of the special delivery, shot by one of the Red Devils, is spectacular.
3. The win took Wigan to third - but it came at a cost.
Thomas Leuluai cut a disconsolate figure as he left the action in the 48th minute, his hand cradling his jaw.
The influential Kiwi broke his jaw on Test duty last year. If he is sidelined for a spell, Shaun Wane may need to tinker with his squad; the back-up halfback - Jake Shorrocks - was last week ruled out for the year with a knee injury. Sam Powell could play there, but 80 minutes may be beyond hooker Micky McIlorum as he builds his match-fitness, and Escare would normally be another option but full-back Sam Tomkins is still injured – maybe Lewis Tierney could go to No.1? Nick Gregson had a spell in the halves last year.
Yesterday, captain Sean O’Loughlin filled the role and he steered Wigan home with a typically high-class performance...
4. And the younger players again caught the eye.
Liam Marshall bagged his 10th try in his ninth appearance, while right winger Tom Davies - who hasn’t been as prolific but has been equally impressive - crossed twice.
Both took some scoring, racing 90m for his first and beating Gigot for his second - justifying Wane’s decision to keep with him ahead of fit-again Tierney.
Centres Joe Burgess and Liam Forsyth - who had his best game yet in a Wigan shirt - also notched two tries each. Indeed, all seven tries had been scored by the three-quarters until Liam Farrell crossed late on. If the forward ruined that statistic, he preserved another - all five scorers are products of the club’s academy-system.
5. What can we make of Catalans, Super League’s perennial under-achievers?
They were spirited in clawing their way back into the contest and Gigot, back from a bizarre suspension for making inappropriate remarks to an anti-doping official, gives their attack some potency. They will be better when several other key players - particularly Greg Bird, Krisnan Inu and Jason Baitieri - return from injury. Wigan travel to Perpignan on July 8.