Here's a look at Jonathan's images from a game in which the Lions' display was as tough and uncompromising as the home side’s concrete-like playing field.
At a venue that has not provided much joy for local teams over the years the Lions made a steady start, competing with discipline and a minimal error count. The early St Pats’ pressure was weathered and the mix of youth and experience in the Featherstone pack put them on attack with Chris Bingham’s constant hard running hit-ups creating problems for the Wigan defence, writes Jonathan Buck.
Just as the away side shook off their ‘still-on-the-bus-legs’ and began to assert some ascendancy, a midfield break and offload went awry, St Pats’ centre pouncing on the ensuing interception to race away to score.
Lions heads did not drop and from a number of excellent, tactical kicks from Liam Kay, they were back camped in Wigan’s 20 metre zone for several repeat sets.
Strong forward runs from Leo Brown and Jake Roberts kept Wigan pinned back, but in flashbacks of the game at Wigan the year before the pandemic, then the much vaunted St Pats’ defence held firm for three successive sets of six on their own line. Their solid defensive effort prevailed, holding Chris Bingham up and preventing Mike Wise from crashing over.
On the stroke of half-time and with a man in the bin the home team finally conceded a penalty in front of the posts. Kay slotted it over, but it was small consolation for the continued pressure that Lions had exerted.
The two point deficit soon slipped to six shortly after the restart as Wigan caught Lions napping for an unconverted try.
It was full credit to the Lions for remaining resolute, however, as some strong drives from Sam Millard and Sam Wilkinson-Pycock put them back into their opponents' half and following a surging run from a play-the-ball close to the line, Mike Wise wriggled through several defenders to record the visitors' first try. Full-back Kay added the extras and Featherstone were deservedly level.
That soon became 12-8 to the Lions as from Josh Maden’s deft distribution a fraction of space was created for the paceman Perkins to out-sprint his covering tackler and score in the corner.
The conversion could not be added, but with only 15 minutes left the game was there for the taking. Wingers Ryan Martin and Kieran ‘Stinger’ Redfearn kept the home side on the defensive in the final quarter. Both turned around several long field kicks all game and Redfearn made some strong breaks to put himself in the clear, which if he had not been carrying a significant groin injury would have no doubt led to length-of-the-field touchdowns.
Despite the territorial dominance the scoreboard advantage could not be maintained and in the last 10 minutes the St Patricks' half-back stepped through some tired defence to score next to the posts. This time the Wigan goal-kicker managed to add the extras to put his side ahead.
However, with the clock counting down to the last two minutes and on the fifth and last tackle St Pats' cries of “watch the kicker” went unheeded, as Jake Perkins dummied to kick and took the defence on the outside once more. The cardinal crime of rugby defending to show the attacker the outside line and then be outpaced was committed in Wigan of all places for the second time and Perkins defied the years with an electric burst of pace to dive over and score in the corner.
The missed conversation did not matter. After navigating the last tricky 60 seconds as Wigan won the ball back from the restart Lions held out for a famous win.
Every single player from 1-17 played their part, Chris Bingham’s indefatigable efforts worthy of special mention.
Journeying to Wigan and coming away with the two points is as rare as taking a pie off one of the locals and Featherstone deserve the plaudits for an excellent away win as they move up the National Conference League One table.