The DW Stadium, where Wigan Warriors were unbeaten in twenty-five consecutive Super League games, saw the visit of top of the table Widnes Vikings who would need to penetrate the Wigan fortress to retain their top spot.
Wigan named and unchanged seventeen from the side that beat the Rhinos six days ago and were big favourites with the bookies to take the two points, and climb to the top of the pile. It had been a stunning start to the season for Widnes but most commentators had tipped this as the round that they would come unstuck.
It was Widnes Vikings, the league’s best attack, against Wigan Warriors, Super League XXI’s strongest defence.
It had been a breathless and entertaining opening sixteen minutes with both sides having chances in an end-to-end encounter. The opening try came from a Joe Mellor mistake when the Vikings stand-off offloaded into the hands of Liam Farrell on the Wigan twenty. Farrell backed himself and went eighty metres to dive over in the corner, outpacing the Widnes chasers. Matty Smith failed with the conversion attempt from the left touchline.
On thirty-five Wigan doubled their lead when Josh Charnley got a bullet ball from Dan Sarginson on the overlap to go five metres and ground by the left corner flag. Smith again failed to add the conversion leaving Wigan with an 8-0 lead at the break.
Seconds after a lengthy video referee intervention ruled out a Widnes try, Kevin Brown and Joe Mellor combined to put Matt Whitley between two Wigan defenders to score close to the uprights. Rhys Hanbury kicked the conversion for 6-8.
On fifty, Widnes bombed a great chance when Corey Thompson failed to ground, and two minutes later Josh Charnley got his second of the night when a Sean O’Loughlin high kick took a strange bounce allowing the Wigan wing man to pick up and ground. Matty Smith again failed to convert and the Warriors were just a converted try ahead at 12-6.
On the hour and Stefan Marsh got Widnes within two points when he dove over in the corner after Tony Clubb had conceded a penalty on the Wigan twenty. The ball passed through several pairs of hands before Marsh found the overlap to score in the corner. Hanbury failed to convert but the game was in the balance.
Two minutes later and Widnes hit the front. Hanbury broke the line and made a half break pulling the last Wiagn defender before finding Charlie Runciman in space to canter thirty metres and score by the sticks giving Hanbury a simple kick for 16-12 to the visitors.
On seventy-one Dan Sarginson slipped on taking a kick and spilled the ball forwards. Dom Manfredi picked it up from an offside position and Rhys Hanbury kicked the resulting penalty for a six point lead at 18-12.
This was a great game played at a fantastic pace by two sides who lived up to their top of the table billing by throwing the ball about and manning up in defence. A superb second half from Widnes was enough to upset the bookies and take the points back to Cheshire. Widnes continue to stun the pundits, have inflicted Wigan’s first home Super League defeat for two years, and retained their top spot heading to the busy Easter weekend.
Warriors: Sarginson, Charnley (T), Gelling, Gildart, Manfredi, O’Loughlin, Smith, Clubb, Powell, Flower, Bateman, Farrell (T), Tautai. Subs: Mossop, Burke, Sutton, Gregson.
Vikings: Hanbury (3G), Thompson, Dean, Runciman (T), Marsh (T), Mellor, Brown, O’Carroll, Heremaia, Dudson, Sa, Houston, Cahill. Subs: Manuokafoa, Gerrard, Leuluai, Whitley (T).
Referee: Richard Silverwood.