Two tries in the last 15 minutes earned Wigan Warriors a late victory against Paul Rowley’s hard-working Salford Red Devils side.
It was a great spectacle for everyone inside the DW, but the Red Devils were on top for large periods of the game and will ultimately go home thinking what could have been.
Salford showed their intent from the off and completed a fantastic first defensive set.
However, a knock-on from Sam Stone gifted Wigan possession and Adam Sidlow’s high shot on the next play gave Harry Smith the easy task of opening the scoring with a penalty-goal.
In quite unusual circumstances, there were four ball steals in the opening half-hour and the arm-wrestle for field position was fierce.
Jake Wardle tried to crash over on the left, but five Salford bodies kept him up. That turnover turned out to be a pivotal point in the first-half, with the Red Devils making valuable metres downfield and forcing a drop-out on the last.
From the restart, Brodie Croft spread the ball right and sent Ryan Brierley towards the Wigan line. Off balance, our number one sent a lovely, disguised kick into the right corner for Ken Sio to gather and slide over. Marc Sneyd added the extras.
It wasn’t long until the hosts responded through Bevan French. The winger collected a low pass and handed off two Salford defenders on the right, jinxed past his marker and strolled under the sticks.
Sneyd was able to level the scores just before the break via a penalty-goal and bring to an end a pulsating first period.
HALF-TIME: Wigan Warriors 8-8 Salford Red Devils
The Reds were penalised on three separate occasions during the first few sets of the second forty, but a huge defensive effort kept Wigan out and brought rewards down the other end of the field.
Sio was the man to go over again for Salford, but it was the genius of Brodie Croft that made it happen. Burgess was almost in on the left, but a quick play-the-ball allowed us to go coast-to-coast and our number six sent the winger in with a beautiful high pass.
Sneyd extended the lead to eight, minutes later. Chris Atkin was hit late on the last and our number seven sent the penalty-goal over from around 35 metres out.
Salford were working hard in defence to try and keep Wigan at bay, but you could sense the tide was turning as the Red Devils tired, and the hosts firmly took advantage.
Much like his first of the game, French finished off a quick Cherry and Whites move by skipping through a wide-open gap in the Salford line and sliding over in the left corner.
With just two points in it, Salford were pinned on our own try-line and quick passing from the hosts carved the defence open once again.
Toby King was the scorer this time and Harry Smith’s conversion all-but confirmed the victory, with Salford’s hard-work in the last ten coming without any reward.
FULL-TIME: Wigan Warriors 20-16 Salford Red Devils
Photo credit: Steve McCormick