Late tries give never-say-die Wolves victory over Wigan
Warrington Wolves 22 - Wigan Warriors 12
By Alan Domville (photo courtesy of Neil Ashurst, P&B Pictures)
A breathtaking match with a sensational finish! Played at the pace of Formula One, Warrington came back from 12-10 down with tries by man of the match Micky Higham and Chris Hill in the last seven minutes to earn a famous victory and cut Wigan's lead at the top of Super League to three points.
Both sides treated a near capacity crowd at The Halliwell Jones Stadium, and thousands of Sky Television viewers to a feast of all that is good in Rugby League.
Wigan had won 13 matches in succession until tonight but hadn't won at Warrington since February 2010, their only victory in the last seven Super League meetings involving the clubs.
Once again the Warriors ran into a brick wall defence that buckled only twice in the second half to set the nerves jangling. But Wolves were not to be denied and snatched a well-deserved win.
With almost all of his first team squad available Wolves head coach Tony Smith had to make some tough decisions for his match-day 17.
Only Rhys Evans, Ben Harrison and Chris Bridge were unavailable for the game - and all of them should be up and running again by next week.
Conversely, Shaun Wane faced selection difficulties of a totally different nature.
He was unable to call upon the services of Epalahame Lauaki, whom he had included in his 19-man squad but who was injured in training, along with skipper Sean O'Loughlin, Ben Flower, Blake Green, Gil Dudson, Iain Thornley, Paul Prescott and Michael McIlorum.
Liam Farrell and Lee Mossop each made their 100th appearance in cherry and white.
Wigan started strongly after taking the kick-off, winning a second set of six with a kick from Matty Smith that was charged down and conceded and then a third when Brett Hodgson was turned in to touch after fielding a Sam Tomkins grubber. A Smith knock-on relieved the pressure and a Lee Briers kick put Wigan on the back foot.
Wolves struck in the sixth minute after Chris Hill was held down; Hodgson went close and then Briers sent Ben Westwood over. Hodgson added the extras.
A strong run by Micky Higham put Wolves on the attack again but the move ended when a Briers kick to the corner was fielded by Josh Charnley who was then tackled in the air,
Harrison Hansen put Wigan back on the attack with a strong run up the middle and after the kick on the fifth Hodgson was tackled in goal.
Ratchford was penalised in front of his own posts and in the subsequent move Briers and Gelling clashed heads, a knock-on then relieving the pressure on Wolves.
Hodgson came close yet again but video referee Ian Smith ruled that he had lost the ball just short of the line.
Charnley put Wigan back on the attack with a 50 metre break and two successive penalties to Wigan saw Pat Richards go over but Joel Monaghan and Briers were able to turn him on his back.
A high shot on Hodgson by Logan Tomkins gave Warrington a penalty and Adrian Morley, just on as substitute, took the ball upfield and quick hands almost put Joel Monaghan over but the winger was turned into touch.
Tom Spencer lost the ball to give Wolves another opportunity but Ryan Atkins was penalised at the play the ball and on the subsequent visitors' attack Ryan's attempted interception was knocked on.
A grubber spelled danger but Joel Monaghan took the ball brilliantly to relieve the pressure and set up another home attack. Briers's kick to the corner was chased by Joel and Ian Smith was happy with his touchdown - making it five successive games in which he had crossed the Wigan line.
A Charnley knock-on put Wolves on the attack again but Myler's up and under was safely collected; a minute later Richie also knocked on near the line.
Fabulous Warrington defence had kept Wigan nilled at half time for the first time this season - and kept yet another 40-minute clean sheet.
Straight from the restart Ben Currie's pass gave Myler a clear run but referee Bentham ruled that it had been forward.
Wigan came back and seemingly New Zealand bound Sam Tomkins reached out for the line. Hansen appeared to be guilty to obstruction - but Ian Smith awarded the try.
Richards converted and it was 10-6.
A ball steal kept the pressure on Wolves but Atkins was able to field the end-of-set kick.
Riley looked to be away for a length of the field run when the ball went loose but Atkins had just touched the ball and Wigan regained possession. One minute later Cook Islander Anthony Gelling went over to level the scores and Richards's kick put Wigan ahead.
Charnley was turned into touch in his corner and Wigan were running hot - but Wolves hit back.
From the scrum Myler raced upfield - and some superb Warrington handling deserved a try but it didn't come.
Briers, already sporting a shiner from the first half, had to leave the field after coming off worse in a tackle.
Another great run from Higham put Wolves on the attack again but a Myler kick was safely diffused. In the visitors' next set great tackles by Simon Grix on Sam Tomkins and Ratchford on Dom Crosby were top-drawer.
Warrington had to wait 24 minutes of the half to receive their first penalty when Richards held Joel Monaghan down in the tackle.
Wigan appeared to be getting the rub of the green but the Warrington defence was sensational.
Charnley was tackled in goal after a Myler kick on the fifth and from the goal line drop out. In the subsequent attack Atkins had the line at his mercy but the ball appeared to be knocked out of his hands.
A minute later Wolves were back on the score sheet when Riley was put away by Atkins and Higham, chasing Chris's kick through, was able to touch down. Hodgson converted and it was 16-12 with seven minutes left.
Yet another great run by the irrepressible Higham put Wolves back on the attack and possession was regained after a Charnley knock-on.
From the restart Grix went close and then Chris Hill went over to send the home supporters wild. Ian Smith was happy with the touchdown and it was Warrington's night.
Hodgson goaled to make it 22-12.
Let's hope the teams meet again in the Grand Final at Old Trafford!
Brett Hodgson; Joel Monaghan, Stefan Ratchford, Ryan Atkins, Chris Riley; Lee Briers, Richie Myler; Paul Wood, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, Trent Waterhouse, Ben Westwood, Simon Grix
Substitutes: Adrian Morley, Garreth Carvell, Ben Currie, Michael Monaghan
Tries: Westwood, Joel Monaghan, Higham, Hill
Goals: Hodgson (3)
Sam Tomkins; Josh Charnley, Darrell Goulding, Anthony Gelling, Pat Richards; Matty Smith, Sam Powell; Lee Mossop, Logan Tomkins, Dom Crosby, Harrison Hansen, Liam Farrell, Greg Burke
Substitutes: Jack Hughes, Chris Tuson, Tom Spencer, George Williams
Tries: Sam Tomkins, Gelling
Goals: Richards (2)
Game photos below courtesy of Bob Brough
24, Jun, 2013