Brian Noble’s return to Wigan Warriors was a miserable one after his Crusaders side were comprehensively beaten by a powerful Wigan display.
The Welsh side had pushed champions Leeds Rhinos all the way in their opening game last week, but tonight they ultimately had no answer to Wigan’s attacking strength as the Warriors ran in seven tries in a crushing 38-6 win.
It all came after Wigan began the game terribly, as Thomas Leuluai missed Michael Witt’s kick off, and Crusaders forced a goal line drop out to mount the first attack of the game. It almost resulted in the first try too as Vince Mellars was stopped inches short of the line after collecting Nick Youngquest’s pass. Rocky Trimarchi had another chance to cross over but Crusaders were again denied so close to the line as Wigan forced the turnover.
Wigan slowly found their rhythm though, as 2009’s Young Player of the Year Sam Tomkins’ grubber kick found the corner and forced the Welsh side into a goal line drop out. Pat Richards did eventually touch down, but only after Amos Roberts had knocked on.
A fantastic run and offload by Roberts set Wigan up again and lifted the home crowd, but another knock on, this time by Paul Prescott handed possession back to Crusaders. The visitors seemed to be gaining momentum before Witt’s wild loose pass set them back. He redeemed himself with a high bomb that caused chaos in the Wigan defence, before Leuluai finally rescued the loose ball.
And Joel Tomkins thought he had scored the opening try, but referee James Child deemed he had been held up. Crusaders quickly conceded a penalty and it proved to be a costly one. George Carmont’s kick wide found Roberts to touch down in the corner with fifteen minutes gone. Richards couldn’t add the extras as his kick hit the outside of the left post and stayed out.
Roberts almost profited again minutes later from an almost identical kick from Leuluai. Lincoln Withers was there this time to climb highest and force the ball into touch. But Wigan came right back, Leuluai held up just short of the line, but on the very next play, replacement Andy Coley forced his way over to the left of the posts, where Richards couldn’t miss.
Crusaders were rattled, Ryan O’Hara made an excellent run forward, only to offload into the arms of Iafeta Paleaaesina. Fortunately for O’Hara, the Wigan man knocked on to present possession back to Crusaders, who could only knock on themselves. And it almost proved costly as only a wayward kick from Sam Tomkins stopped Wigan scoring a third try.
He made amends in the next attack however, with an excellent disguised pass to keep the move alive. The ball found its way to Leuluai who was held up again after the referee called play on, but Wigan had men over and a pass out wide found Martin Gleeson who had the freedom of the pitch to cross over, Richards adding the extras.
Wigan were now flying, and just as debutant Paul Deacon was arriving as a replacement for Mark Riddell six minutes before half time, Cameron Phelps put a grubber kick into space in the corner for Richards to score his first try of the season. He couldn’t convert however as his kick sailed just wide.
But Crusaders weren’t out of it, and pulled a try back just before half time. Sean O’Loughlin conceded a penalty 10 metres from the line, and Wigan were punished as Luke Dyer scored after doing very well to avoid touch under heavy Wigan pressure in the corner. Witt’s excellent kick from the touchline added the two points.
It was almost for nothing as Crusaders shot themselves in the foot almost immediately, as Withers fumbled Wigan’s kick off into touch for a goal line drop out. As Wigan attacked, Sam Tomkins touched down the loose ball, but play had already been stopped for Richards’ knock on.
Crusaders brief rally almost came to an abrupt end just moments into the second half. Richards’ kick off was misjudged by O’Hara and bounced straight back into Wigan hands. Wigan tried to work the ball out wide, but a high tackle stopped them in their tracks. Despite heavy early pressure though, Crusaders survived for the moment. They failed to build any momentum though, as a forward pass to Adam Peek however handed possession straight back to Wigan.
Sam Tomkins was next to threaten as his pace made something of Leuluai’s straight kick, but the young stand off couldn’t quite gain enough control of the ball but did force a goal line drop out. He almost scored again, as he sold a fantastic dummy to the Crusaders defence before being tackled.
The visitors’ second half resistance was finally broken by a moment of genius from Deacon. His chip forward was collected expertly by Phelps to touch down under the posts, Richards converting.
Just before the hour, an outstanding jinking run from Joel Tomkins then set up yet another Wigan try, as his offload found Roberts on the halfway line. The winger dodged three tackles before touching down under the posts for his second try of the game. Richards converted again to increase Wigan’s commanding lead.
Five minutes later, Wigan broke through again. Paleaaesina’s power forced the opening, and O’Loughlin’s pass gave Lee Mossop the simple task of crossing over for his first Super League try for the club. Richards scored his fifth conversion of the game to extend Wigan’s lead beyond 30 points.
Approaching the hooter, Sam Tomkins made an outstanding break thanks to two dummies. Crusaders had men back as he was halted 10 metres from the line. He was enjoying himself now, as another dummy almost set up Gleeson for his second try.
Crusaders almost added some respectability to the scoreline, as Withers chased his own kick, only to be halted by a Wigan knock on 10 metres from the line. They couldn’t score again though, despite some heavy pressure near the Wigan line in the final minutes of the match. But there was no denying the home side who had in truth dominated the game from start to finish.