Friday, 6 February 2015

12-Man Vikings Comeback Denies Warriors

After a mixed pre-season away from home, Wigan made the short trip to the Select Security Stadium to face Widnes in the opening game of the 2015 Super League season ushering in 'The new era of Rugby League.'

The Warriors starting 13 included a couple of surprises with Logan Tomkins and Ryan Sutton both starting in the second row in the absence of the injured Michael McIlorum and the suspended Ben Flower in an otherwise predictable selection.  The pre-match atmosphere between both sets of fans was electric and included a touching tribute from Widnes to loyal warrior Adam Cunliffe who passed away earlier in the week and will be missed amongst the Wigan community.

Both sides made a reasonable start to the game by exchanging sets before a clever move down the left allowed Joel Tomkins to cross for the first try of the game and the season itself in front of the joyful Wigan end. Matty Smith attempted to convert from a tough angle but sent the ball just to the left of the posts at 4-0.

Wigan could have added a rapid second try when a pacy run down the middle from John Bateman saw him pick out Matt Bowen just metres from the line but Bowen's momentum saw him fumble and end the move. Widnes responded instantly with Stefan Marsh racing clear from the scrum only to be excellently denied by Anthony Gelling.

The Vikings continued to advance with a sweeping kick from Joe Mellor finding the grasp of Patrick Ah Van who touched down in the corner but James Child elected to go to the video review who agreed with his decision to deny the try for a knock-on. The intensity rose just seconds later when Kevin Brown's dummy failed to fool Ryan Sutton who floored him with a superb tackle but the impact meant the Vikings captain was unable to continue.

Wigan regained possession and utilised it cleverly as a quick passing play saw John Bateman and Matt Bowen combine to find Anthony Gelling who crossed for the Warriors second score which was added to by Matty Smith's conversion for a 10-0 lead. The visitors looked to strike for a third time in the 23rd minute when Josh Charnley found space on the wing but with the line in sight he was caught by the swinging arm of Patrick Ah Van who after a delay was dismissed leaving Widnes with 12 men for the majority of the game.

Wigan took just five minutes to use the extra man to their advantage as the combination of Bateman and Bowen paid off fr a second time as Anthony Gellng crossed for his second try with Matty Smith converting for a second time to give the Warriors a 16-0 lead. Widnes looked to be heading into the interval scoreless as the minutes ticked down but benefited from a Joe Burgess knock-on which saw Joe Mellor react quickest before blazing down the wing to cross for a try. Danny Tickle converted and Widnes were on the board at 16-6.

Widnes defied their numerical disadvantage to record a successive score just six minutes into the second half as a clever grubber from Joe Mellor evaded the arms of Matt Bowen to leave Rhys Hanbury with an easy take and try. Danny Tickle made it two from two with the boot for a 16-12 scoreline.

Wigan responded with an effort in the 53rd minute with Joel Tomkins looking to have crossed for his second try but after a video review the try was denied meaning four points still served as the gap between the sides. However, Wigan did extend their lead just three minutes later with Tomkins influential by picking out Joe Burgess on the wing who crossed for a try which saw Matty Smith convert well to make it 22-12.

Although many expected Widnes to suffer with just 12 men, the Vikings proved the critics wrong with a rapid move across the field which allowed Cameron Phelps to cross with ease on the overlap to the dismay of the onlooking fans in the East stand. Stefan Marsh took over the kicking duties but was unable to convert leaving the score at 22-16.

Aside from being the new era of rugby league, the slogan for 2015 is 'Every minute matters' and with just five minutes left on the clock in a six point game, the phrase proved true as a Wigan mistake gave Widnes good field position which saw Chris Dean cross for a try before chaos ensued.

A melee between the players began after the celebrating Rhys Hanbury received a kick from Matty Smith leading to the aforementioned melee which also saw Joel Tomkins grapple Cameron Phelps, both Wigan players were spoken to by James Child but with no punishment. Stefan Marsh converted to level at 22-22 to set up a tight finish.

The restart saw a delay as James Child called over Matty Smith and sent the Warriors half-back to the sin bin for the final minute which saw Wigan waste the final possession and leave both sides with a point each.