Tarleton Seconds travelled to Wigan on Saturday safe in the knowledge that they were already promoted and needed to beat them to take the League title.
A squad of 27 players made themselves available and from the start of the match it could be seen that both teams were up for it! Wigan knew that if they beat Tarleton they would be the champions so no holds were barred in this encounter.
Wigan have a large physical pack but the Tarleton 8 were pushing them off the ball with consummate ease and creating opportunities for the backs to attack. To be fair Wigan’s defence was on top form and some crunching tackles were going in to stop the Tarleton flyers from going over the line.
Tarleton drew first blood with a penalty for a high tackle that Fraser Grieves slotted to give Tarleton a 3-0 lead.
Wigan then lost a prop after about nine minutes and asked for the scrums to be uncontested, Tarleton thought that this was a tactical move and Wigan eventually came up with a volunteer prop and the game continued.
The Wigan No.7 (playing at No.8) was making dangerous breaks and carving big holes in Tarleton’s defence which eventually led to a try for them in the corner and a good conversion from out wide gave them a 7-3 lead.
The next 15 minutes of the game became a tense battle of attrition with no side giving or receiving quarter and bodies were being put on the line in every position.
Tarleton regained the lead from a good line out and quick passing of the ball along the line to give Jordan Dawson a good try in the corner (8-7 lead established).
This was where the game started to fall away from Tarleton as a long series of strange decisions saw them not being able to play any sort of phased rugby as they conceded penalty after penalty. The first of these for being offside saw Wigan regain the lead with a kick in front of the posts and at half time the score was 10-8 to Wigan.
The ‘old heads’ in Wigan’s pack were using their years of experience to disrupt any decent Tarleton ball and were getting away with a lot of illegal plays on the ref’s blind side, Tarleton seemed to be ‘pinged’ for every misdemeanour and more penalty chances were given to Wigan and a further score saw them go ahead 13-8.
Wigan then scored a try following the most blatant knock on that should not have been missed and with the conversion and a 20-8 lead it felt as though there was no way back for Tarleton.
Despite this they kept on coming and Wigan’s defence had to work hard to keep them out. A good move saw Fraser Grieves charging through and he was stopped by a tackle that was as close to decapitation as there is, the ref lost control as the handbags came out and the end result was a penalty to Wigan and Fraser and his tackler were binned for 10 minutes.
Tarleton continued to press but Wigan managed to keep them out and even managed to pinch another try at the end when from a scrum in Tarleton’s 22 they did a quick pick up and go and a missed tackle let one of their big forwards crash over.
The end result was 25-8 to Wigan and they just have to win one of their last two matches to become champions as they have a superior points difference to Tarleton.
This was not the result that Tarleton wanted but they have achieved their aim of moving up a level and closing the standard between themselves and the First XV who they feed up to.
A good season all in all and Tarleton will have to prepare well when they step up to the Plate in North Lancs 3 in September.