PICTURE FOCUS: Featherstone Lions battle to record thriller win at Wigan St Patricks

Here’s a preview of Jonathan’s footage of a match in which the Lions’ display was as tough and uncompromising as the home side’s concrete playing field.

In a venue that hasn’t brought much joy to home teams over the years, the Lions got off to a steady start, competing with discipline and with minimal errors. The pressure from the early St Pats was overcome and the mixture of youth and experience in Featherstone’s squad put them in attack with Chris Bingham’s constant hard hitting creating problems for the Wigan defence, writes Jonathan Buck.

Just as the opposing side were shedding their ‘legs still on the bus’ and starting to assert their ascendancy, a midfield break and an offload went awry, with St Pats’ cross bouncing on the interception which called to run away to score.

The Lions’ heads didn’t fall and after a number of excellent tactical kicks from Liam Kay, they were back in Wigan’s 20-yard box for several repeat sets.

Solid forward runs from Leo Brown and Jake Roberts kept Wigan stuck, but in flashbacks to the game at Wigan the year before the pandemic, the vaunted St Pats defense held on for three successive rounds of six on their own line. Their solid defensive effort prevailed, holding off Chris Bingham and preventing Mike Wise from crashing.

On the stroke of half-time and with a man in the trash, the home team finally conceded a penalty in front of the posts. Kay knocked him down, but that was small consolation for the continued pressure from the Lions.

The two-point deficit quickly slipped to six shortly after the restart as Wigan caught the Lions napping for an unconverted try.

It was all credit to the Lions for staying resolute, however, as some powerful drives from Sam Millard and Sam Wilkinson-Pycock put them back in their opponents’ half and after a soaring run from a ball play close to the line, Mike Wise ran through several defenders to register the visitors’ first try. Fullback Kay added the extras and Featherstone was deservedly level.

It quickly became 12-8 for the Lions from the deft distribution of Josh Maden, a fraction of space was created for pacemaker Perkins to get past his cover tackle and score in the corner.

The conversion couldn’t be added, but with just 15 minutes to play, 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. The two took several long kicks down the field throughout the match and Redfearn made heavy breaks to take cover which, had he not suffered a serious groin injury, undoubtedly would have led to touchdowns down the length of the field.

Despite territorial dominance, the scoreboard advantage could not be maintained and in the final 10 minutes the St Patricks half-back broke through a tired defense to score wide of the posts. This time, the Wigan goalscorer managed to add the extras to give his side the lead.

However, with the countdown to the final two minutes and the fifth and final tackle, the St Pats’ cries of “watch the kicker” went unheeded, as Jake Perkins pretended to kick and took on the away defense once again. Rugby’s cardinal crime of defense to show the striker the outside line and then be passed was committed at Wigan of all places for the second time and Perkins defied the years with electric acceleration to dive and score in the corner .

The missed conversation didn’t matter. After navigating the tricky final 60 seconds as Wigan won the ball back from the restart, the Lions held on for a famous win.

Every player from 1-17 played their part, with the tireless efforts of Chris Bingham deserving of special mention.

Traveling to Wigan and walking away with both points is as rare as taking a pie from one of the locals and Featherstone deserves the applause for an excellent away win as they climb the National Conference League One table.

Charles P. Patton