Wigan have one hurdle – and that a modestly sized one – to negotiate, to take them back to the area of north-west London that the club knows so well. This comprehensive win, highlighted by the long-range opportunism of Josh Charnley, takes them into a Challenge Cup semi-final against the Super League back-markers, the London Broncos, at the end of this month. Few would now back against them reaching Wembley and guaranteeing a big crowd, much to the relief of the RFL, against either Hull or Warrington.
With Gareth Hock prevented from playing by the terms of his loan from Wigan, who had Sam Tomkins and Sean O’Loughlin back from injury, the pre-match odds tilted even further against Widnes, a club with their own proud, if slightly more distant, Wembley tradition, with a gap of 17 years since their last final.
It took eight minutes for Wigan to assert their superiority, Rhys Hanbury losing the ball in the tackle and the prolific Charnley pouncing to go half the length of the field. Four minutes later, another loose ball and another Charnley try and Wigan were on their way, with Pat Richards landing both conversions. Widnes, with their wealth of former Wigan players, lacked nothing in effort but there was little they could do about the mesmerising ball movement that brought Tomkins the third try or Matty Smith the fourth, from Liam Farrell’s break.
Widnes have looked a decent attacking side at times this season and they got a try back through Patrick Ah Van, latching on to Kevin Brown’s cross-field kick. Almost immediately, however, they gave Charnley, the long-distance runner, an invitation for his hat-trick.
The excellent Farrell kept the Warriors rolling after the break, following Hanbury’s mistake in taking the ball into touch. Wigan even had the luxury of taking off Tomkins for a spot of recuperation as they eased into the last half-hour and got another through his replacement, Ryan Hampshire – his first for the club.
It was another reminder of the depth of talent at this club. The Broncos could be excused for looking forward to meeting them in their semi-final on the 27th of this month with some trepidation.
Blake Green completed the try scoring, with Richards finishing with eight from eight.
Wigan Tomkins; Charnley, Goulding, Gelling, Richards; Green, Smith; Dudson, McIlorum, Mossop, Hansen, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Substitutes used Tuson, Crosby, Burke, Hampshire.
Widnes Hanbury; Owens, Phelps Marsh, Ah Van; Brown, Mellor; Gerrard, Clarke, O’Carroll, Winterstein, Leuluai, Cahill. Substitutes used Kavanagh, Joseph, Gore, Lawton
Referee B Thaler.