One area that many fans criticised Wigan for last season was their attacking flair, or distinct lack of it – Widnes at home in the Super 8’s probably being the lowest point. I thought that if I looked at the first four Super League games last year and compared them with this season, I would see a big improvement on points scored. There is difference of 37 points so far, an average of 9.25 points per game (112 in 2017 and 75 in 2016).Embed from Getty Images
The quantity of points shows a good improvement and perhaps that will become a substantial improvement as the season progresses, but one thing that is different is the quality of the attacking. I always think that the amount of tries wingers and centres score, indicates the quality of an attack – simply a lot of the time, the extra space is created by good attacking play for the outside-backs which creates tries. Wigan’s centres and wings have scored 18 out of 25 tries this season (including WCC), indicating that the fluidity of the attack is good and that the team is now creating better chances for their wingers.Embed from Getty Images
I was very much a Matty Smith fan during his time and Wigan and two Super Leagues, a Challenge Cup and Lance Todd Trophy to his name qualifies him as a success. However, the re-signing of Leuluai has highlighted the attacking direction that we missed when Smith was the senior halfback. For me, the Green/Smith partnership worked and was successful and during those two seasons, Blake Green was the leader of the two – his experience and directional play allowed Smith to execute the structured drills and focus on his excellent in-play kicking.
The two seasons with Smith as the experienced halfback with Williams, were perhaps the two seasons in which our attacking play faltered and was criticised. Smith and Williams look to excel when they have an organiser alongside them, Williams in particular. Leuluai’s smooth transition back into the side has seen five great performances from Williams alongside him, showing the kind of Man of Steel form that many are tipping him for. In that respect, Leuluai must be given credit for Williams seemingly increased consistency so far this season but also Wigan’s greater attacking flair – playing a brand of rugby which is no longer predictable to fans and opponents alike – a subject which Tony Smith mentioned before the Warrington game. Likewise, Shaun Wane deserves credit, re-signing Leuluai may have been a no-brainer, but to do so, they had to let a great servant in Smith leave but also leave to arch-rivals, St Helens – a decision, that so far is benefitting the team and in particular, George Williams.Embed from Getty Images