Wigan kicked off the 2020 Super League season in eventful fashion with a hard-fought 16-10 win over 12-man Warrington.
The Wolves had captain Chris Hill sent off after 22 minutes for a high tackle on Sam Powell which resulted in a penalty try and they also had his fellow front rower Mike Cooper sin-binned 17 minutes from the end for obstruction.
Against all the odds, the visitors put up a valiant effort and it was only while they were down to 11 men that Wigan scored their decisive third try.
There was also controversy when Wigan forward Morgan Smithies was accused by Warrington stand-off Blake Austin of an eye gouge, an incident which was placed on report.
Watching the incident on the big screen was England prop George Burgess, who was the last player to be punished for eye gouging during his final season with South Sydney in 2019.
He had made his Wigan – and Super League – debut from the start of the match, watched by older brother Sam from a hospitality box, but was taken off after 18 minutes as he struggled with the early intensity of only his third match in seven months.
Man of Steel Jackson Hastings had a quiet debut but Warrington’s Matty Ashton caught the eye at full-back, with Stefan Ratchford switched to half-back in the absence of new marquee signing Gareth Widdop.
Warrington ended their 2019 Super League campaign with a run of just one win from their last nine matches but they made a flying start to this game.
Ratchford put them in front with an early penalty and Tongan second rower Ben Murdoch-Masila gained the distinction of scoring the first try of the season, bundling Burgess out of the way on a gallop to the line, to extend their lead to 8-0.
Wigan pulled a try back after 17 minutes when exciting full-back Bevan French scythed his way through the Wolves defence with ridiculous ease and the pivotal moment came five minutes later when Powell took Hastings’ offload with the line beckoning.
Hill’s high tackle from behind looked ugly, leaving referee Chris Kendall with little option but to brandish the red card, shortly after video official Ben Thaler had awarded a penalty try.
After lengthy treatment on the pitch, Powell was carried off on a stretcher but was said shortly afterwards to be fully conscious with Wigan’s medical staff.
Zak Hardaker’s second conversion, from in front of the posts, extended Wigan’s lead to 12-8 but Ratchford pulled two points back with a second penalty as the 12-man visitors attempted to keep themselves in contention.
The Warriors struggled to make full use of their man advantage as their opponents scrambled superbly.
Winger Joe Burgess was held up over the line midway through the second half and the ever-dangerous French was denied a penalty try after being obstructed while chasing his own kick.
However, prop Mike Cooper was sin-binned for that offence and Wigan found it easier to score against 11 men as winger Liam Marshall collected French’s cut-out pass to cross unopposed for his side’s third try.
Wigan: French; Marshall, Hardaker, Bibby, Burgess; Leuluai, Hastings; Partington, Powell, Burgess, Isa, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Subs: Byrne, Clubb, Havard, Smithies.
Warrington: Austin; Ratchford, Lineham, King, Gelling; Charnley, Ashton; Hill, Clark, Cooper, Currie, Murdoch-Masila, Clark. Subs: Philbin, Akauola, Walker, Burrell.