Five things we learned this weekend: It’s back!

One – A long journey ahead

Never mind a 33-hour trip to New Zealand via Glasgow, on the evidence of Friday night Wigan have a long way to travel if they want to hit the heights they reached last year.

The departure of Lee Mossop looks like an enormous loss to a Warriors’ pack that struggled to contain Huddersfield’s giants.

Consider the forwards Wigan have lost in recent years – Mossop, Harrison Hansen, Gareth Hock, Ryan Hoffman, Jeff Lima – and there have to be questions about whether the current mob match up.

Michael McIlorum and Sean O’Loughlin will certainly stiffen them up, but will it be enough?

Still, it’s only round one and Wigan have a history of proving everybody wrong. Hopefully they’ll repeat that trick in a fortnight’s time.


Two – When is a high tackle not a high tackle?

Paul Anderson and Shaun Wane offered comically contrasting views about Matty Bowen’s high shot on Scott Grix.

Anderson said: “It didn’t look good, did it? It didn’t look good.”

But Wane, perhaps with fingers crossed that his new signing will be available for the World Club Challenge, tried to downplay the whole thing.

“It didn’t seem to bad to me,” he said. “It was just a reaction.”

Bowen’s tackle was definitely high, but it was also shockingly late. Grix was making his third stride after kicking the ball forward when Bowen flattened him.

Perhaps, from our angle, we’re missing the technicalities – but Five Things thought it was as clear a red card as you’re likely to see. High and so late it made Virgin Trains look good, Bowen was lucky that Richard Silverwood didn’t have the bottle to take definitive action there and then.

Bowen later admitted: “I don’t know what I was thinking”. Quite.


Three – Sensational Scott

Mention there for Grix, who was arguably the best player on the pitch – although Eorl Crabtree might have something to say about that.

Grix has been erratic in the past, often verging from superb to slapstick in the same game, but those errors are getting increasingly difficult to spot.

But as ever with the Giants, their success was built on all-round excellence.

Danny Brough was his usual self, buzzing around with plenty of menace even if his kicking wasn’t quite up to his normal standards.

Jermaine McGillvary’s three tries (how soft did Wigan’s left-side defence look?) were all taken well and Brett Ferres continued from his excellent World Cup campaign with another decent hit out.

All in all an encouraging first night for the Giants, but the boss still wants more.

“We’ve won at the home of the champions,” said Anderson. “I don’t think we played that well, but we’ll take it.”


Four – Sydney smiles? Maybe, just maybe…

Despite his team’s win, Anderson still insists the Warriors have every chance of claiming the World Club Challenge 20 years after their famous triumph in Brisbane.

Following Friday’s display Wigan fans could be forgiven for feeling a hint of trepidation at what’s to come in Sydney.

But asked whether he thought the Warriors still had a chance against Sonny Bill et al, Anderson said: “Yeah, they’re my team in that game. I hope they give it to them Aussies.”

Over to you, boys.


Five – Actual rugby is better than its politics

After two months of watching and listening to rugby league’s off-field leaders tear strips off each other, it’s fantastic to finally have some rugby to distract us all.

Whatever side of the fence you fall on, whether that be with the RFL or the so-called ‘rebels’ (and our experience seems to be a 50/50 split of those we’ve spoken to), isn’t it brilliant to be talking about the on-field action once more?

Roll on Thursday night. It’s good to be back.

Any thoughts? We’d love to see them in the comments box below.

Follow Neil Barraclough on Twitter @neilbarraclough

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