Well, it was dubbed as the perfect fixture to kick off Super League in 2020, and, Wigan- Warrington didn’t disappoint.
It was rough, tough and exciting as Wigan held off a spirited Warrington that had captain Chris Hill sent off in the 23 rd minute. Hill’s red card was just deserved – an abysmal high tackle on Sam Powell in the act of scoring left the Wigan hooker on a stretcher and the Warriors being granted a penalty try.
But, despite being a man down, the Wolves rallied extraordinarily well to be defeated by just six points at 16-10.
In fact, it was the visitors that started the brighter of the two sides, racing into an 8-0 lead courtesy of a Ben Murdoch-Masila rampaging effort – which left new Wigan signing George Burgess on the ground – and two Stefan Ratchford goals.
But, Wigan hit back when fullback Bevan French threw a delightful dummy to dash under the posts. Zak Hardaker converted to bring the Warriors back to within two.
The crucial moment though came with Hill’s moment of desperation just after the midway point in the first half. Powell appeared destined to score, but Hill’s interjection not only stopped the Wigan man in his tracks, but it also stopped his consciousness as Powell was carried from the field on a stretcher.
Hill was given his marching orders as referee Chris Kendall awarded a penalty try. Hardaker added the extras to make it 12-8. But, Ratchford’s penalty brought the Wolves back to 12-10 at the break.
It was a game full of action and Wigan’s Morgan Smithies was placed on report for an alleged eye gouge on Warrington halfback Blake Austin. Mike Cooper was the next Wire player to be given a breather for a professional foul on French when the latter looked like he would follow up his own kick as the visitors tried to hold on.
But, 11-man Warrington finally cracked when the French took advantage of the extra men to send a looping pass to winger Liam Marshall. Hardaker’s missed conversion still left the Wolves within one score at 16-10.
Warrington tried everything to claw back the deficit, refusing to die as epitomized with the chasing down of the sprinting Joe Burgess in the final ten minutes. But, the Wolves just couldn’t get over the line.
It was a superb contest with new signing Matty Ashton performing admirably at fullback for the Wolves in his first Super League game. Wigan’s Jackson Hastings and Jake Bibby looked to have settled in easily too with Bevan French starring in a top-class affair.