Sydney Roosters travelled over to England, looking to claim, the World Club Challenge Trophy at the DW Stadium as they faced the Wigan Warriors.
The Roosters side featured 13 of the 17 players who started the 2018 NRL Grand Final with Wigan naming an unchanged squad from last weekends defeat of Leeds Rhinos.
Lachlan Lam missed out on facing his father, Warriors coach, Adrian after he was not named in the 17-man squad. New signing Ryan Hall was still out injured with Latrell Mitchell opting to play the NRL All-Star game on Friday.
Despite having a few games behind them already, Wigan didn’t look particularly sharp in the opening stages. The Roosters marched up the field and Farrell blocked a Sio Siua Taukeiaho kick and the Australian side were given a fresh set of six. They didn’t need it though as Brett Morris broke out of tackles from Oliver Gildart and George Williams and race 10 metres to score. Prop-Forward Taukeiaho missed his conversion.
Just five minutes later Brett Morris once again got himself over the line after more poor defence from Wigan. However, this time instead of breaking through a couple of one man tackles he powered over four Warriors defenders in Thomas Leulaui, Liam Farrell, Gildart and Williams to dot the ball down for his second try in his first eight minutes in a Roosters shirt. Taukeiaho was successful with the conversion.
A penalty in the tackle allowed Sydney to attack the Wigan line once more but a rare loose pass from Cronk allowed the home-side to breath.
A late hit from Jared Warea-Hargreaves on Sam Powell was called up by the referee and just a few seconds later a just about legal tackle on a floored Liam Farrell caused a ruckus between the two sides. Wigan awarded a penalty in the aftermath to set up 20 metres out from the Roosters line.
Sydney couldn;t hold the Warriors out though and Tom Davies gave his side a lifeline. Offload after offload from Wigan caused the Roosters to scramble in defence and a quick pass from Gildart gave the winger all the room in the world to run 10 metres and slide over in the corner. Hardaker missed with the conversion and Sydney lead by six after 20 minutes.
The physicality of Jared Warea-Hargeaves was equally matched by Jor Greenwood who bounced off each other after a strong carry from the Roosters forward and it lifted the Warriors in defence.
A loose off-load from Ikuvalu allowed Williams to pick the ball up and race out of the Warriors 20 metres and Wigan looked to grow into the game. The half-back then drilled a fifth tackle kick deep into Sydney territory to slow the game down.
A fifth tackle kick from Cooper Cronk was collected high by Tom Davies and Brett Morris stole the ball from the winger and thought he’d scored a first half hat trick. Robert Hicks deemed the tackle to be complete and Wigan were awarded a penalty.
However, just a minute later the Roosters were putting pressure on the Warriors line again and Morris did claim his hat-trick. Keary and Cronk linked in the midfield to draw the Liam Farrell and Oliver Gildart in field and Morris beat the centre around the outside to grab his, and Sydney’s third try. James Tedesco dragged the conversion attempt wide.
The Roosters did get close to the Wigan line again but no further points were scored in the first half and Sydney led at the half.
Half-Time: Wigan Warriors 4-14 Sydney Roosters.
With Wigan needing to score first to give them some hope, Dan Sarginson intercepted a Roosters ball and raced 60 metres to set up the Warriors just 15 metres from the Sydney line. The fifth tackle play was spread to the left hand edge and nothing came from it.
The Warriors did seem more match sharp early in the second half and Sean O’Loughlin stole the ball to put the Roosters under more pressure. However, Joe Greenwood’s offload bounced out of play off Liam Farrell’s knee.
A knock- on from Hardaker in the tackle just under 10 metres from his own line gave the Roosters a chance to extend their lead but Liam Marshall claimed Luke Keary’s high bomb. Sydney won the ball back in just the next tackle though as Greenwood was tackled into touch.
The game was getting closer in the field but not on the score board and with 15 minutes of the second-half gone Wigan needed to score and Thomas Lealaui made a half-break to put the Warriors on the front foot.
Two back-to-back penalties from Nat Butcher for interference at the play the ball set Wigan up nicely to attack from 10 metres out. Sydney held out though and the Warriors were looking lack lustre when attempting to finishing sets off.
Willie Isa conceded a penalty for interference at the play the ball inside his own half and the Roosters decided to go for the two points. Taukeiaho slotted the penalty to extend the lead to two converted tries with 20 minutes to go.
Wigan weren’t looking to lie down and when their attacking set broke down once more they looked even more dangerous. A penalty once again allowed them to attack from just 15 metres out.
The Warriors managed to get over the line in the 65th minute as well. A booming pass from George Williams fell short of Liam Marshall. However, the winger controlled the ball with his foot, picked the ball up cleanly and dived over into the left hand corner for a wonderful try and the Warriors were back into the game. Zak Hardaker was unable to convert from the touchline and the home side still needed to score twice.
A wonderful kick chase from Wigan, coupled with a handling error from Matt Ikuvalu gave the Warriors a fresh set inside the Roosters half and looked to score again. O’Loughlin’s dabbed kick through was collected by Copper Cronk and the Roosters cleared their lines.
With 10 minutes remaining Wigan were increasing the tempo and putting pressure on Sydney as the Roosters players looked to tire.
The Warriors were looking to force the issue now and with just over five minutes remaining the pressure was telling on both sides. The lack of game time was showing from the Roosters but the scoreline was working in their favour.
A short goal line drop out from Wigan worked the first time round but the second-time did not go their way as the Roosters started a fresh set five metres out from the Warriors line.
Keary’s fifth tackle kick went high and the six-foot-five-inch Daniel Tupou rose higher than Tom Davies to collect the ball, land well inside the in-goal area and dot the ball down to all but secure the World Club Challenge Trophy for the Australian side. Taukeiaho was once again unsuccessful with the boot and with two tries needed in two minutes it looked impossible for Wigan to win the game.
The Roosters easily closed the game out in the final stages and showed that the gulf in class between the Super League and the NRL is still there as the importance of the international game is still debated.
Full-Time: Wigan Warriors 8-20 Sydney Roosters
Man of the Match – Brett Morris:
The Sydney Roosters centre was an absolute menace with the right side of the Wigan Warriors defence. On his Debut for the Roosters he showed that Latrell Mitchell or Ryan Hall are guarenteed to start in this Sydney side. He didn’t touch the ball many times but with his first three touches he scored three tries as the Roosters dominated Wigan early on in the game.
Zak Hardaker, Tom Davies, Oliver Gildart, Dan Sarginson, Liam Marshall, George Williams, Thomas Leuluai, Tony Clubb, Sam Powell, Ben Flower, Joe Greenwood, Liam Farrell, Sean O’Loughlin.
Subs: Romain Navaratte, Willie Isa, Gabriel Hamlin, Joe Bullock.
Tom Davies, Liam Marshall
Zak Hardaker (0/2)
James Tedesco, Daniel Tupou, Joseph Manu, Brett Morris, Matt Ikuvalu, Luke Keary, Cooper Cronk, Jared Warea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Boyd Cordner, Mitchell Aubusson, Victor Radley.
Subs: Isaac Liu, Zane Tetevano, Lindsay Collins, Nat Butcher.
Brett Morris (3), Daniel Tupou
Sio Siua Taukeiaho (2/5), James Tedesco (0/1)