By PA Media
Last Updated: 23/10/20 10:14pm
Wigan’s Bevan French put on a masterclass to destroy beaten Challenge Cup finalists Salford almost single-handedly.
The Australian full-back scored three tries and set up two more to help Wigan to a hugely impressive 58-12 victory at St Helens and show what Super League will be missing in 2021 if, as expected, he returns to the NRL.
French took his try tally to 15 in 17 league and cup games so far this year to improve his prospects of bowing out of Super League with the prestigious Steve Prescott Man of Steel award.
Oliver Gildart, Sam Powell and Liam Farrell all scored two tries apiece as 10-try Wigan consolidated their top-two spot in the table.
Wigan were able to welcome back Tony Clubb back from a six-month injury absence for his 150th appearance for the club and, with Ben Flower also making his return, their pack was able to lay a solid platform for French to work his magic.
Salford coach Ian Watson included 12 members of his cup final team but their brave Wembley exploits looked to have taken a heavy toll as they crashed to their heaviest defeat of the season.
Without injured playmaker Kevin Brown and with coronavirus victims Dan Sarginson and Jack Ormondroyd still self-isolating, Watson was forced to reshuffle his line-up midway through the first half when full-back Oliver Ashall-Bott went off for a head injury assessment.
Stand-off Tui Lolohea went to full-back with hooker Joey Lussick switching into the halves and the disruption added to the size of the Red Devils’ task.
They were already trailing 18-0 at that stage after hooker Powell had twice burrowed his way over the line from dummy half and second rower Farrell supported a break by winger Joe Burgess for another try.
It was then the French show as the Australian flier led the Salford defenders a merry dance with his electric pace, dazzling footwork and evasive skills.
Twice he diffused high balls deep inside his own half and counter-attacked in breathtaking fashion, combining with winger Jake Bibby to score his first try and then turning defenders inside out on a thrilling 70-metre run for his second.
Zak Hardaker converted all five first-half tries as the Warriors led 30-6 at the break.
Salford briefly stemmed the flow of points when Lussick put centre Kallum Watkins through a gap in the Wigan defence for a try on 29 minutes and they struck first in the second half, when Lolohea supported a break from Chris Atkin to touch down.
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Krisnan Inu kicked both conversions but French was soon weaving his magic once more as he created tries for stand-off Jackson Hastings and centre Gildart.
Farrell and Gildart then scored their second tries and French completed his hat-trick as Salford wilted and Hardaker took his goal tally to nine from 10 attempts.