Charnley rips through Widnes
10:03pm Wednesday 18th June 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Josh Charnley destroyed Widnes almost single-handed with a five-try haul on his return from injury to help Wigan go top of the First Utility Super League for the first time since July last year.
The prolific 22-year-old missed 11 matches after damaging a knee in his side's Challenge Cup win at Dewsbury in April but it was as if he had never been away as he took his remarkable try tally for the club to 90 in just 81 Super League appearances.
The 48-4 win over a disappointing Widnes, in a round-two fixture postponed in February due to the Warriors' involvement in the World Club Challenge, completed a successful day's business for the reigning champions, who unveiled the re-signing of dual-code international Joel Tomkins at half-time to the delirious cheers of the 11,638 crowd.
Charnley's England team-mate Liam Farrell scored two tries and played for the first time alongside his 18-year-old brother Connor, who made a memorable try-scoring debut.
Wigan, who also gave a debut to 19-year-old hooker Callum Wright, had things very much their own way all night against a Widnes side who still looked to be in shock from their 56-6 hammering at home by Hull.
It was all very predictable from the moment third-choice full-back Dan Sarginson split the visitors' defence inside the first minute to get Farrell senior over for the game's first try.
Matty Smith kicked the first of his six goals to make it 6-0 but the Warriors were forced to defend after handling errors inside their own 20-metre area by Sarginson and Scott Taylor put them under pressure.
That paid off when Vikings winger Paddy Flynn took Danny Craven's inside pass and sidestepped his way past Joe Burgess for his side's only try.
It was only a minor irritation for the champions, however, as Charnley opened his account on 13 minutes following another break from the ever-threatening Sarginson and Burgess collected Sam Powell's kick to get skipper Sean O'Loughlin over 10 minutes later.
When Widnes second rower Danny Galea dropped the ball on his own 30-metre line, Charnley made him pay by going over for his second try and he completed his hat-trick on 34 minutes after out-jumping Patrick Ah Van to touch down Smith's high kick.
It was turning into a procession, with Sarginson carving out a fourth try for the England winger two minutes before the break, and centre Darrell Goulding sending him over for his fifth 14 minutes into the second half.
Widnes were without former Wigan stand-off Kevin Brown by then after he was withdrawn by coach Denis Betts, perhaps with an eye on the visit of Leeds on Sunday, while Wigan boss Shaun Wane took the opportunity to rest O'Loughlin with 25 minutes still to play.
Liam Farrell finished off a break by Burgess to score his second try before his brother got in on the act, dummying his way over for Wigan's ninth try six minutes from the end.