Five things we learned from Wigan’s 42-6 win against Salford...
1. Wigan head into Wembley week in high-spirits.
Can you imagine what the mood would be like had they lost - and left Shaun Wane with areas to fix up? Instead, there is a feel-good factor brought by the thumping victory, and it must have given their confidence they can win the Challenge Cup Final a timely shot in the arm. Finalists Hull FC, incidentally, lost 46-18 at home to Huddersfield.
2. The win wasn’t just good preparation for Wembley - it kept alive their top-four hopes.
Wigan leapt over Salford in the ladder and are locked on points with fifth-placed St Helens, with Wakefield, in fourth, a further point ahead. All three sides play each other in the home-straight, and so Wigan know they will finish in the play-offs positions if they win their remaining four Super League games. Drop one, and their chances recede.
Wigan’s last four games are against St Helens (a), Hull FC (a), Castleford (h) and Wakefield (a).
Wakefield face Salford (a), St Helens (h), Hull FC (a) and Wigan, while Saints also have games against Hull FC and Castleford sandwiched between their crucial matches against the Warriors and Trinity.
3. Back to the game; one frequent criticism of Wigan from some quarters - even when they have been winning - has been their attack.
On Friday night, they showed what they are capable of, with a display with the ball just as good as their robust defence. They had energy, pace, idea, angles, profiting on the metres eaten up by the forwards and, when they didn’t score, they made sure they turned over possession in good position. All but four of their 42 points were scored by academy-products, too.
4. It was a complete team performance, but it was particularly pleasing to see George Williams return to form.
Not that he has been out-of-form - he’s just not been firing as he did earlier this year. against Salford, he was majestic, and his left-edge combinations with Liam Farrell, Oliver Gildart and two-try Joe Burgess were slick and potent.
5. Wigan, though, were helped all the way by Salford.
They started brightly on Friday. But once Wigan registered their first two tries, their confidence seemed to melt away. It wasn’t through lack of trying, but they didn’t have the firepower to cause Wigan many problems. Still, the Red Devils have had a wonderful season, going from last year’s Million Pound Game to the top-eight.