Wigan close on Leeds with victory
10:16pm Thursday 22nd May 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Injury-hit Wigan made it a miserable night for their former assistant coach Iestyn Harris with a clinical victory at the AJ Bell Stadium that lifts them to within a point of First Utility Super League leaders Leeds.
The Warriors went into the game without nine regulars and lost hooker Michael McIlorum midway through the first half with a knee injury but Shaun Wane's youngsters came up with the goods to secure an impressive 25-4 win over a disappointing Salford, who have now gone seven matches without a victory.
Teenage winger Joe Burgess led the way with two of his side's four tries while former Salford scrum-half Matty Smith kicked four goals and a drop goal.
As well as Wigan's rookies played, the game will be best remembered for referee Phil Bentham's inability to make a decision other than to refer the majority of the crucial calls to the fourth official.
Video referee Ben Thaler was called on eight times, disallowing three tries to Salford and two to Wigan - largely through sticking to the letter of the law on the obstruction rule - before finally giving the green light to three Wigan scores.
The first try did not come until just before half-time but the outcome was never seriously in doubt.
There was a surprise re-appearance of Australian scrum-half Tim Smith, one of four ex-Wigan players in the Salford line-up, along with on-loan hooker Logan Tomkins, but he was never able to make his mark on the game.
Thaler was arguably the busiest man at the ground. He ruled out early tries to Francis Meli (Salford) and Ryan Hampshire (Wigan) for obstruction and, while Salford had the majority of possession, Wigan always looked the more likely scorers, with 19-year-old Burgess and fellow winger Dominic Manfredi going close to touching down kicks from Sam Powell and Smith.
On a rare foray to the Wigan line, former Warrior Gareth Hock had a try disallowed for a double movement while Thaler also denied Wigan centre Dan Sarginson for an obstruction.
The only try of the first period eventually came on the stroke of half-time when Smith, a one-time Everton apprentice, showed his dribbling skills to set up the score for second rower John Bateman, who outpaced full-back Greg Eden to get the touchdown.
Referee Bentham even referred that to the fourth official, whose announcement of a try was greeted by ironic cheers from the Wigan fans.
Smith's successful conversion made it 6-0 and he was again on target five minutes into the second half after Powell had taken his pass to jink over for Wigan's second try.
Salford lacked the kicking game to get them out of their own half and it was no surprise when the visitors extended their lead on 52 minutes, with Burgess accepting Hampshire's pass following his weaving run to slide over for his first try.
Salford forward Matty Ashurst had a try disallowed by Thaler for a ball steal and Wigan extended their lead with a Smith drop goal and a 70-metre try from Burgess.
The Red Devils finished a well-beaten side but they at least avoided the embarrassment of being nilled when Meli went over for a consolation try 90 seconds from the end.