Wigan edge past Salford in Zak Hardaker’s return – three talking points

Photo courtesy of Steve McCormick

Zak Hardaker played his first game 16 months as he helped Wigan beat Salford 28-18 in a pre-season match.

Match summary

New recruit Ken Sio started on the wing for Salford, with trialists Connor Davies-Aspey and Calvin Wellington came off  the bench.

Zak Hardaker pulled on a Wigan jersey for the first time as he started at half-back, while new signing Jarrod Sammut started in the halves.

Sio gave the Red Devils an early lead as he latched onto a Jackson Hastings grubber, before Wigan hit back through Liam Farrell.

Tries from Sam Powell and Tom Davies in the last 10 minutes of the first half gave the Warriors a 16-4 advantage at the break.

Salford started the second half well as they scored through Joey Lussick and Jake Bibby, before Morgan Escare and Hardaker stretched Wigan’s lead.

The Red Devils scored a consolation try late on through Derrell Olpherts but it was Wigan who ran-out winners with a 28-18 scoreline.

Three talking points

Early review of the shot clock

The new ruling of the shot clock was put to use in the game and for those who aren’t fully aware of the new law, teams will be penalised if they fail to beat the shot clock for scrums (35 seconds) or drop-outs (30 seconds), while sanctions will also be introduced to ensure that no more than 80 seconds of match time is used by each kick at goal.

In the Salford-Wigan game, the shot clock definitely seemed to work at scrums because the game restarted in a much quicker time, but for drop-outs it seemed slightly long. On a number of occasions, the Red Devils were ready to restart the game but they waited another 10/15 seconds to take the drop-out, purely because they had enough time to do so. But overall, the game seemed to start and finish much quicker than usual, a positive for the sport.

Zak is back

Hardaker’s last game of professional rugby league came on September 28, 2017. He helped Castleford Tigers reach the Super League Grand Final as they beat St Helens 23-22 in golden-point extra-time.

He was dropped ahead of the final after being found guilty of taking cocaine. Hardaker then left Castleford and signed a four-year deal with Wigan.

While training with Wigan but still banned, Hardaker received a drink-driving charge and went into a rehabilitation programme with Sporting Chance.

And on Sunday, Hardaker scored a try and took over kicking duties as the Warriors beat the Red Devils.

Hardaker racked up a tally of 12 points in Wigan’s victory, nailing four out of five attempts at goal as well as going over for a try. Wigan fans can be excited about Hardaker ahead of this season.

Massive difference in squad depth

Wigan have one of the largest squads in Super League, while Salford have one of the smallest.

In Wigan’s squad ahead of 2019, the Warriors have 35 players in their first-team. Salford on the other hand, only have 25 players at their disposal.

Just from looking at the teamsheet, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that Salford could struggle if they pick up a few injuries all at once.

That said, Ian Watson and his staff have recruited very well over the off-season. Joey Lussick was the man of the match and took on a big responsibility in guiding the team around the park. Sio also looks a terrific signing – his carries out of yardage are impressive and he is a clinical finisher.

Team line-ups

Salford: Evalds; Sio, Sa’u, Chamberlain, Bibby; Lui, Hastings; Mossop, Lussick, Murray, Jones, Turgut, Burke.

Interchange: Griffin, McCarthy, Nakubuwai, Flanagan, Olpherts, Davies-Aspey, Wellington.

Wigan: Hardaker; Manfredi, Sarginson, Gildart, Davies; Williams, Sammut; Flower, Powell, Clubb, Isa, Farrell, Hamlin.

Interchange: Greenwood, Navarette, Partington, Bullock, Escare, Shorrocks, Tautai, Byrne, Hankinson, Marshall, Ganson, Mullen.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.