Widnes Vikings earned a point in a dramatic but controversial opening match to the 2015 First Utility Super League.
Shaun Wane will be disappointed with his Warriors side, who were 16-0 up with a man advantage after Patrick Ah Van was controversially sent-off for a high swinging arm on Josh Charnley, which forced the wing off with concussion.
Spurred on by a crowd of under 10,000 Widnes showed spirit and fight despite the circumstances to earn the point after a late converted try from Chris Dean.
The Warriors made a dominant start and raced into an eight-minute lead when Joel Tomkins wriggled out of a tackle and crossed in the corner.
It was soon extended when Anthony Gelling, making his 50th Wigan appearance, scored following a fluid move involving Matty Bowen and John Bateman. 10-0 Wigan after 15 minutes looked a long way back for the hosts.
That was made to look like a mountain in the 23rd minute, when Ah Van was dismissed somewhat harshly for a high tackle on Wigan’s Charnley. However instead of rolling over and accepting defeat the Vikings were galvanised.
Despite Gelling getting his second try of the match just before the half hour, which was converted by Matty Smith giving Wigan a 16-0 lead.
Four minutes before the break there was a little ray of hope for the hosts. Half-back Joe Mellor capitalised on some suspect handling from Joe Burgess and scampered clear to take the match into the interval at 16-6. Just three minutes earlier Burgess had the chance to extend the Wigan lead, but fumbled in a dangerous area.
Not long after the interval Rhys Hanbury went over to reduce the deficit. But all hope seemed to diminish after 55 minutes when this time Burgess made no mistake from a Tomkins pass to give the Warriors what seemed a comfortable cushion.
On the hour mark Gelling looked to have sealed his hat-trick when crossing, however referee James Child ruled the pass he received from Bowen to be forward, a decision the official got correct.
Wigan leading by eight points with 12 minutes of play remaining looked home and hosed.
Then Widnes fullback and ex-Wigan man Cameron Phelps scored in the left corner after a quick passing move saw the ball switched creating the space for the Australian to score.
With three minutes of time left on the clock Widnes needed a converted to try to level the game and take a point.
Step-up Chris Dean. He powered his way over the try-line under the posts giving Stefan Marsh, kicking in the absence of Danny Tickle and Kevin Brown, a simple opportunity to tie the match.
But before the kick could be taken there were more handbags, which in the end saw Matty Smith, put in the sin-bin. When Marsh was able to take the conversion, he obliged to the joy of the home crowd to share the spoils.
A dramatic start to the 2015 season, which didn’t lack incident or talking points.
One thing that was good to notice was the new video referee system, which seemed to work well when it was needed.