Tomkins' fine solo show sets up third holiday win for rampant Wigan

Crusaders 16 Wigan 48
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The Independent Online

Sam Tomkins scored two memorable solo tries as the Super League champions made it three wins out of three over the demanding holiday period.

The full-back's second try, a thrilling 60-metre dash after he had stepped through the initial attempts to tackle him, sealed the match after Crusaders, totally out-gunned in the first half, had staged a creditable rally in the second. Not that that impressed their coach, Iestyn Harris.

"I thought we were soft in the first half, really, really soft," he said. "Wigan were clinical. They were like a rottweiler with a bone; they weren't going to let go.

"Sam Tomkins is a special player, but if you allow their forwards to dominate you, someone of his ability will have a field day."

Josh Charnley also scored two tries as Wigan punished the home side with some ruthless finishing.

"Sam performed really well, but it was our front-rowers who really put their hands up today and that's where the match was won," said Wigan's Michael Maguire as his side went joint top of Super League with Warrington, with the extra advantage of a game in hand.

Crusaders, shock winners against the then leaders Huddersfield in their last match at the Racecourse Ground, had Gareth Thomas in their line-up at centre despite his attendance at the royal wedding, whereas Wigan had to re-jig slightly to cover for the absence of Joel Tomkins and Harrison Hansen, with calf and knee injuries respectively.

On top of that, Ryan Hoffman had a rigorous on-field fitness test on his right knee before getting the go-ahead – none of which prevented Wigan making the ideal start.

A quick turnover of possession, the first of the afternoon's sinuous runs from Tomkins, a kick from Brett Finch to Pat Richards's wing and the Warriors were on their way within two minutes.

A mistake by Tony Martin helped them to their second try, Tomkins chiming into the line before he released Charnley with a perfectly timed pass.

A glorious Tomkins solo, from a diagonal run past a series of stranded defenders, was followed by a Thomas Leuluai try set up by a magnificent short ball from Paul Prescott to Jeff Lima. An equally good pass from Sean O'Loughlin, on his 250th appearance, sent Finch over and Richards's goal-kicking remained flawless as he underlined his all-round value to his team now that he is fit again.

A sharp Leuluai break from dummy-half and borderline pass to give the alert Charnley his second got the second half off to a similarly assured start, but then Crusaders produced some belated signs of defiance to lift the spirit of their slice of a 5,000-strong crowd.

"I expected that they were going to come back at us," said Maguire. "They're a team that don't go away."

Thomas started the comeback, scoring from Clinton Schifcofske's pass, and although Michael McIlorum got one for Wigan from a dart from dummy-half, the Welsh team finally had a bit of momentum.

Martin fooled George Carmont to set up Michael Witt and Thomas's charging run and excellent one-handed pass saw Stuart Reardon pick up on the half-volley for a picture-book try for Crusaders.

Although the best of Tomkins was yet to come and the match was long since decided, that was the sort of thing that enabled the home side to finish the afternoon with a little pride. They could have had a couple more tries, but had left their big effort far too late. "We dug in second half, but our first half was soft," said Harris. "I thought we had more resilience about us than that."

All the signs are that playing Wigan for the rest of the season will require plenty of that quality.

Crusaders: Schifcofske; Reardon, Martin, Thomas, Tansey; Witt, Hanbury; Bryant, White, Flower, Cahill, Chan, Winterstein. Substitutes used: Dudson, Sammut, O'Hara, Johnson.

Wigan: S.Tomkins; Charnley, Goulding, Carmont, Richards; Finch, Leuluai; Coley, McIlorum, Mossop, Hoffman, Farrell, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: Lima, Prescott, Deacon, Tuson.

Referee: J Child (Dewsbury).