“Who’ll rule the world?” said Eddie Hemmings as Cronulla Sharks kicked off at the DW on Sunday, but is that now the case for Wigan?
The fans roared as the players graced the turf, and within four minutes were screaming as Burgess romped in acrobatically to score at the corner. Four minutes, 4-0. On seven minutes the travelling Sharks supporters thought they’d got points on the board through Luke Lewis, however, the officials disagreed and decided it was offside.
On 23 minutes Burgess was in again, that combination with Gildart proving lethal, not without Gildart taking a belter of a shot on the loaf, to get him in for a second. The score stayed at 10-0 to the Cherry and Whites until half time but not without another Cronulla try – this time through winger Capewell – being disallowed. Now, maybe the Sharks fans were well within their right to bemoan the video ref’s decision, with multiple replays seeming to show that the there was no knock on from the kick, and surely physics says the point of the ball touched the floor before the touchline. But, it’s 10-0 at half time to a Super League side and we hadn’t seen anything like this since…well, the night before.
The game rolled on and the infamous gulf was nowhere to be seen. That feeling was reinforced when Gildart scored within five minutes of the second half starting.
The game continued with Cronulla seeming to show signs of what won them their first Premier last year and were rewarded in the 59th minute, finding the try line Jesse Ramien. 16-6.
Squeaky bum time. This is what the Aussies do. Course they’ll come back.
But fear not: the Williams and Burgess combo we all knew so well in 2015 had different ideas. In the 79th minute Burgess went in for his hat trick – controversially – and a fourth WCC for Wigan.
And now it’s time for the whole of Super League to come together and celebrate, yeah?
Nah, lets slag a ref off.
Robert Hicks has come in for a lot of stick since the game; in fact it seems to be the main thing mentioned in articles and on forums. Some decisions were questionable, undeniably. The disallowed Capewell try could well have been given, after multiple video replays slowed down to a pace comparable to the Sharks’ willingness to retire ten metres. The game was a scrappy and dirty one from the start, big hits, poor handling and hair being pulled, and that was just the fans wanting to get the pre-match entertainment off. But wasn’t that what was always going to happen in front of a crowd like that? The 21,000 strong didn’t stop for 80 minutes. The only thing you’d maybe pick out was Hicks blowing his whistle more than a Japanese train worker. I thought I had tinnitus by the ten minute mark. As a spectator in the stands it can be hard to spot what’s going on in the play the balls, but watching back on Sky, Robert Hicks was always going to have his work cut out. In the NRL there are two referees on the pitch and I think Cronulla wanted to fully exploit that. I don’t buy Shane Flanagan with that floppy bottom lip, his boys could have been penalised plenty more times, as could Wigan, but Wigan took their chances when it mattered.
Also, Hicks seemed to be trying to keep everything in check as much as possible from the get go. Within minutes of kick off he was in the ear of each captain more than Brett Ferres with a team mate’s other half.
Having spent the previous two years squaring up to Brisbane at the DW, with varying amounts of misery, last year in particular was a poor result for Wigan, and Super League in general; all three of the SL teams had their arse shown to them in 2016, leaving the competition with egg on the RFL supported NRL snubbed face.
After being expanded in 2015 to a six-team tournament it was now a four-team tournament, sadly in most part due to a lack of interest from NRL clubs, with Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennet being the main supporter of the format. It’d be tough for him not to being England coach, eh?
And is this the real shame with this competition, the lack of interest on one hemisphere’s behalf? What is spun and proclaimed the ultimate test, the biggest of them all, the king makers…is it really just a friendly? If it was what we wanted it to be, would it take till October to get any sort of finalisation on which hemisphere the game is being played?
No doubt the 2-0 win to Super League over the NRL has boosted confidence and belief in our top tier – and Christ, did it need it. But could it prove to backfire? The Aussie sides have to take on a lot, travelling across the world for one game to play in the freezing cold, basically, as preparation for a league that will kick off in 30 degree plus heat in a matter of weeks. I was speaking to a friend over in Aus, a Storm fan, and I’m told how the fans of the clubs themselves – never mind the NRL – aren’t really interested and see it as a silly risk for their players to undertake. So are they right?
Already rumours about next time are stirring. Will there be a next time? Rumours of Toronto, somewhat questionably home to the new League 1 team, and even Hong Kong are rumoured as potential hosts next time round, along with Australia itself.
Whatever is thought on the other side of the world, however, and what people think of the refereeing and decisions awarded, Wigan and Warrington both did Super League proud this weekend. Daryl Powell might even acknowledge that one day.