By Ian Golden at Stebonheath Park
PRE-SEASON friendly matches don’t often tell us too much, especially when sides use so many substitutes, but one thing’s for certain, West Wales Raiders don’t look like they’ll be pushovers this year.
Sure, there are a few creases to iron out before they face Coventry Bears in a fortnight in the League 1 opener, but already one can see a far more solid defence, conceding just six tries in this 34-0 loss to an extremely well-drilled Wigan Warriors “reserve” side, who rightly showed quality in every position.
Out of the 23 players named by the Raiders, only nine turned out last season, one of those being new skipper Ashley Bateman who made just a solitary appearance at the start of 2018 before requesting a move to Coventry.
But this is a new Raiders, new season, new coach and plenty of new recruits from both Wales and abroad, and the difference showed straight away as they pounded Wigan’s backline throughout the first five minutes. An interception cost them a second minute try and good defence prevented the Welsh on the next time they had the ball.
It took eight minutes for Wigan to get into the Raiders’ half, scoring on their first attack. Winger Cian Tyrer did well to leap onto a grubber to ground in the corner.
Again Raiders looked for a try, again they couldn’t finish it. Mike Connor was held up over the line, and Dan Maiden missed an opportunity to leap onto a bouncing ball.
Wigan scored their second try on 19 minutes. From an interception, Joe Brown raced 30 metres to score. Callum Green converted.
Fighting for a third, Ethan Havard was held up over the line. Morgan Smithies was also stopped in his tracks when going for the whitewash.
Finally, Brown broke for the line with two minutes to go in the half for Wigan’s third, Green converting again to put the half-time score on 16-0 to the Super League youngsters.
Raiders once again applied the early pressure when the second half started. Twice in five minutes was winger Sam Baker was blocked by the solid Wigan defence after the Raiders won a repeat set.
But once again when Wigan got into their opponents half, they scored. Big prop Ben Kilner forcing his way over and Green converting.
From kick-off, Corey Hall scored Wigan’s fifth, grounding in the corner from Ryan Forshaw’s kick, with Green adding the extras again.
As the game entered its final stages, Raiders continued to fight hard to get on the board. After winning a penalty on Wigan’s ten-metre line, they had another determined set of six, but again the Warriors backline stood painfully firm.
The final say went to the Warriors as Jack Kennedy finished off a length of the field move for them to score their sixth of the afternoon. Joe Shorrocks converted.