Wigan were grateful for two early tries from hooker Michael McIlorum as they ground out an opening 12-6 Super League win over Catalans Dragons in dreadful conditions at the DW Stadium.
Last year's Grand Final runners-up were far from their fluent best but hardly needed to be against a Dragons side that simply could not get to grips with the greasy ball o n a glue-pot of a pitch playing host to a third game in a week.
It was an inauspicious way for former Wigan favourite Pat Richards, one of six players making their Catalans debut, to mark his 200th Super League appearance, 10 years on from making his Warriors bow in a defeat by the Dragons in Perpignan.
Former Castleford and Widnes second rower Willie Isa made his debut for Wigan, who moved skipper Sean O'Loughlin up into the front row for his first appearance since England's win over New Zealand on the same ground three months ago.
Two other new faces for the visitors, Paul Aiton and Richie Myler, both knocked on inside the first four minutes to give Wigan the ideal attacking platform which they put to good use and, w hen centre Krisnan Inu spilled Glenn Stewart's misdirected pass from dummy half 10 metres out from his own line, McIlorum pounced for his first try.
Matty Smith's conversion attempt from close range bounced back off an upright but he was on target three minutes later when his half-back partner George Williams bamboozled the visitors' defence with his handy footwork before popping the ball up for McIlorum to grab his second.
The Catalans, who lost Aiton with a bicep injury after only 11 minutes, were unable to string enough passes together to test the Wigan defence and their only half-chance of the first half came through Myler's jinking run which came to a predictable halt with a dropped ball.
Nilled five times on their previous visits to the DW Stadium, the French side were heading for another whitewash until second rower Justin Horo pulled a try back two minutes into the second half, getting a touch to the ball after full-back Lewis Tierney failed to clear Myler's kick to the line.
Richards' goal cut Wigan's lead to just four points but Smith extended it with a penalty on 53 minutes as the Catalans, who had Gregory Mounis placed on report for a high tackle on Tony Clubb, began to lose their discipline.
The home side continued to dominate but former England winger Josh Charnley had a try disallowed for a knock-on and second rower Liam Farrell was similarly denied because of an obstruction.
With only six points separating the sides and the Catalans producing their best rugby of the match in the final quarter, Wigan were actually relieved to hear the final whistle despite being the better side by some distance.News Now - Sport News