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The round thirteen Saturday afternoon fixture saw a top of the table clash between a second placed Wigan Warriors side needing an eighteen-point win to go top of the table, against the third placed Warrington Wolves who knew they could join St Helens on twenty league points with a victory.

Despite their closeness on the league table the bookies believed that this would be a comfortable victory for the away side as they gave the Wolves a fourteen-point start on the handicap coupon.

It was a packed Halliwell-Jones which welcomed the two sides to the field for a mouthwatering clash as the they met for the first time in 2024, a dress rehearsal for next weekend’s Challenge Cup final at Wembley.

Both sides had an eye on next weekend’s trip to London and both coaches made several changes to their normal line-up, conserving their aces for the big Cup Final.

Liam Marshall had an early try ruled out by the video referee as his foot touched the sideline as he went for the line on two minutes, the first points coming on twelve from the boot of Stefan Ratchford after Wigan had tackled off the ball and gifted a kickable penalty.

Two minutes later and the Wolves were in for the opening try of the game, Aaron Lindop chasing a Josh Drinkwater grubber to the corner and dropping over the line to ground. Stefan Ratchford was unable to convert from wide, Warrington with a 6-0 lead.

On eighteen the Wolves extended their lead, blitzing the Warriors and on a roll, with first a Drinkwater break, and then the scrum half being on hand to chase his own grubber and score under the sticks. Ratchford added the conversion from under the sticks.

On twenty-two the Warriors were back in the game, Junior Nsemba spinning out of the Drinkwater tackle and dropping to the ground to score. Adam Keighran hit the mark with the conversion and the arrears were back to six points.

A spectacular hallmark Marshall finish, off a Harry Smith looping pass, saw the free-scoring winger leap over the Wolves tacklers to score in the left corner. Keighran added the touchline conversion to level the scores,

Two minutes later and the Warriors were in the lead, Bevan French going through a pedestrian Wolves defence before passing inside to Kruise Leeming to cross. Keighran added the conversion for an 18-12 lead. As poor as Wigan had been in the opening twenty minutes, they had been equally as impressive in the next fifteen.

A Smith 40-20 with thirty seconds of the game remaining saw Wigan with an attacking chance and after the final hooter Smith capitalised with a drop goal for a seven-point lead at the break.

Ryan Hampshire should have opened the second half scoring as he chased a great Marshall infield kick to the middle, but the Wigan full-back knocked on in the act of scoring. Warrington worked the ball to the other end of the field but had a try ruled out thanks to a great Zach Eckersley tackle.

The scoreboard was untroubled for the first twenty-eight minutes of the second half before an awful tackle by Keighran on Lindop, shoulder to head on the falling player, saw the Wigan man red-carded and likely out of the Challenge Cup final.

With two and a half minutes remaining Ratchford grabbed a lifeline for the Wolves as he chased a Drinkwater high kick towards the posts and grounded behind the sticks to give himself a simple conversion to reduce the arrears to a single point.

Some frantic play from Warrington lead to clumsiness and Wigan managed to hold onto the ball and run the clock down to the final hooter which signalled a one-point win which sends them level on points with St Helens with a game in hand. Warrington will be proud of their youngsters who played well to stay in the game until the final hooter, but we will only know at full time next week whether the gambles of the two coaches had paid off.

Warrington Wolves: Taylor-Wray, Lindop (T), Wrench, Tai, Thewlis, Ratchford (T, 3/4 G), Drinkwater (T), Bullock, Powell, Wood, Holroyd, Tupaea, Whitehead.  Subs: Musgrove, Green, Nicholson, Harthill. 18th Man: Okoro.

Wigan Warriors: Hampshire, Douglas, Keighran (3/3 G, SO on 69), Eckersley, Marshall (T), French, Smith (DG), Harvard, O’Neill, Byrne, Nsemba (T), Walters, Ellis. Subs: Hill, Mago, Leeming (T), Dupree. 18th Man: Farrimond. 

Half-Time: 12-19.

Full-Time: 18-19.

Score Progression: 2-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, 12-4, 12-6, 12-10, 12-12, 12-16, 12-18, 12-19 : HT: (SO), 16-19, 18-19 :FT.

Lead Exchanges: Warrington – Square - Wigan.

Referee: Jack Smith.  



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Posted by RLFANS News Hound on Sat 1st Jun 2024 4:54 PM | Views : 3713 | Replies : 0 | BACK TO STORIES