Wigan leave it late against a tired-looking Salford side


Wigan Warriors scored two late tries to secure a 20-16 comeback victory against Salford Red Devils.

Ken Sio’s double for the visitors had been enough to match Bevan French’s brace for Wigan. But Toby King crossed in the 73rd minute to seal victory for the Warriors.

The rain was coating the surface before the match got underway, greasing up the playing field. The weather settled quickly but it was clear from early on in the contest that handling would be tough.

Wigan opted to put early points on the board in the fourth minute, converting a penalty kick from the boot of Harry Smith as the visitors got off the a nervy start.

The hosts dominated the territory in the first 10 minutes, but were unable to crack a brave Salford side. However, their early punishment of the Red Devils’ defence would pay dividends in the end.

Against the run of play, Salford produced the first flash of quality in the 15th minute. Under pressure from the rushing Wigan defence, fullback Ryan Brierley saw his passing options closed down, so instead, he slid in an elegant grubber kick towards the corner flag that was collected and grounded by Sio.

Both sides were quickly deteriorating in fitness, gaps were opening up in both defences and the game was getting frantic. Wigan then seized their opportunity and capitalized in the 27th minute.

Their winger French, spotted one of those gaps in the Salford line and stepped in off the right to bamboozle his opposite number, he angled back towards the posts and hit the gap with pace to stroll over the line untouched.

The first half was rounded off after Marc Sneyd converted a penalty kick in the 34th minute for Salford, leaving the scoreboard at 8-8. Both sides limped in the changing rooms after a tough first 40 minutes.

In the second half Salford came out the blocks quickly, it took them just seven minutes to breach the Wigan defence, and how they breached it.

Halfback and current Man of Steel holder Brodie Croft, looped a spectacular ball over everyone and out to the wing from almost in line with the goal posts. Nobody in the Wigan line had seen a pass of that quality coming, and had all squeezed in on the Salford attack.

Sio collected the ball in miles of space and had a simple sprint to the line to put his side in front, claiming his second try of the evening.  Sneyd would then convert another penalty kick shortly after to give Salford a two try lead.

Wigan worked on slowly breaking Salford down, shifting the ball across the pitch at every opportunity, the Red Devils’ squad were becoming sluggish and tired after the work they had already done.

In the 69th minute, the hosts resilience paid off. Salford had already left everything they had on the field, and when French saw another gap his eyes must of lit up in excitement. Bursting through the defensive line in the exact way he had done in the first half, he crossed untouched again for his second of the night.

Wigan’s players and fans had their tails up now, trailing the visitors by two points but they could smell blood, and just four minutes later they completed the comeback. Jai Field floated across the pitch and nobody could get a hold of him.

After he had attracted the attention of the majority of the defence, he quickly shifted the ball out to King on the side-line, who crossed in the corner to give the home side the lead, and all the points with it.

The game whittled out without much of a fight from Salford as they couldn’t get possession of the ball in the Wigan half of the field. They had no energy left in the tank and that’s all credit to Wigan who wore them down gradually.

Wigan’s coach Matt Peet had this to say after the game:

“There are things we can improve on, particularly on the ball. But we never lose that determination, fight, resilience, commitment to your mate at the side of you.

“That has to become our trademark, that’s what makes you proud as a coach.

“We’ll have some great days here this season. I’m loving the fact that we’re proving we’ve got that mindset to win in different kinds of games.”

Salford boss Paul Rowley said:

“For most of the game I thought we were really good. I’ve got no complaints, it was a good game, but we ran out of troops at the end.

“Wherever we’ve been, I’m always proud of this side.”

Up next for Wigan is a trip to local rivals Leigh Leopards, while Salford host Huddersfield Giants.


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