After a long and cold winter Super League was back with a vengance as the 2020 season kicked of in Wigan with an encounter between the Warriors and Warrington Wolves. The twenty-fifth year of the competition promised to be amongst its most competitive with most sides have experienced close season squad churn.
It was the first time out for some new signings for both sides with the 2019 Man of Steel, Jackson Hastings, and George Burgess for the home side while Matty Ashton and Anthony Gelling pulled on the Primrose and Blue for the first time.
It was time for us to be entertained and it was a mouthwatering prospect for the first encounter of the new season.
There was little nervousness in the opening exchanges as both sides were out of the blocks at full speed. The defences were on top and the opening points came from the boot of Stefan Ratchford after Sean O’Loughlin had held on too long in the tackle close to his own line.
The opening try came on thirteen minutes after a Wigan mistake gifted Warrington position. Ben Murdoch-Masila went on the change and smashed George Burgess out of the way to bust two tackles and go ten metres to score. Ratchford added the conversion for an 8-0 lead.
Wigan stated their season on fifteen as Bevan French mesmerised the Wolves defence and ran diagonally through the broken line to score under the sticks and give Zak Hardaker a simple goal to reduce the margin to two points.
Wigan hit the front on twenty-two after an awful tackle on Sam Powell from Chris Hill, taking him around the head as he ducked for the line to score. The video referee, Ben Thaler, awarded a penalty try. Hill was shown the red card, a short start to his season, for a lazy and clumsy tackle as Powell was stretchered from the field after an extensive period of medical treatment. Hardaker kicked the goal for a 12-8 home lead.
When Jackson Hastings was penalised for lying-on after twenty-seven, Ratchford kicked his third goal of the night and the visitors were back within two points but neither side could add to their tally before the interval, the twelve men holding their own against the thirteen.
Back to back penalties against Warrington for ball steals broke the second half deadlock on fifty-eight. Joe Burgess had been held up over the line
It had been a stalemate of a second half before Mike Cooper was sin-binned for an off-the-ball obstruction, which denied Wigan a try scoring opportunity, on sixty-three as the Wolves dropped to eleven men.
Within a hand full of tackles Liam Marshall broke the deadlock when French found the winger with a long looping pass for him to go over in the corner. Hardaker was unable to add the extras, Wigan six points ahead.
On seventy-three Wigan had a Zak Hardaker try ruled out by the video referee and despite Warrington having a couple of chances in the dying minutes to level the scores it was the Wigan defence which held out to secure a narrow six point win.
It was a game with plenty of incident, skill and controversy. Down in numbers for most of the game it was the visitors who will take the pride from the game, despite the points going to the home side. It was a full-blooded opening to the season to get us underway and whet the appetite for the coming nine months of cut and thrust.
Warriors: French (T), Marshall (T), Hardaker (2G), Gildart, Bibby, Burgess J, Hastings, Partington, Powell (T), Burgess G, Isa, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Subs: Clubb, Byrne, Havard, Smithies.
Wolves: Ashton, Lineham, King, Gelling, Charnley, Austin, Ratchford (3G), Hill (SO on 22), Clark D, Cooper (SB on 63), Currie, Murdoch-Masila (T), Clarke J. Subs: Philbin, Akauola, Walker, Burrell.
Referee: Chris Kendall.