Briers’ kick levels classic like it’s 1999

Wigan 17 Warrington 17

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The Independent Online

A 71st-minutes drop-goal from Matty Smith, cancelled out by one six minutes later from Lee Briers, saw the spoils divided between two of the clubs that can be expected to fight it out for honours this season.

Last season’s League leaders and the Challenge Cup-holders produced an early season classic, which could have gone either way. In the end, a draw – only the second between these two clubs in the Super League era – gave each of them the reward they deserved.

The Wigan coach, Shaun Wane, said: “A good effort from our boys. They showed a lot of character the way we defended our line, but I was frustrated by some of our attack. We could have been a bit smarter.”

Warrington’s Tony Smith added: “We’re not punching the air, but I wouldn’t have been if we’d won or lost. We didn’t control the game enough.”

This was billed as the first genuine heavyweight contest of the new  season, although it looked a little less so in view of the rather threadbare pack Wigan had to field. There was something flimsy as well about the way they were opened up far too easily for the game’s first try.

A defender’s arm knocked the ball down to give Warrington an extra set of six tackles. With the air of a team accepting an open invitation, they moved the ball to their right flank, for Joel Monaghan (below) to touch down in the corner and Brett Hodgson to land the difficult conversion.

There was nothing lightweight about Wigan’s response to that, Josh Charnley capitalising on some smart handling by Matty Smith and Darrell Goulding to go over. Six minutes later, Ben Flower, the Welsh forward just off the bench, got through a well-set defence with ease.

Two fine tries kept it nip and tuck in the second half. First Richie Myler side-stepped through for the Wolves, followed by the outstanding Liam Farrell tying it all up again.

With nine minutes to play, a fumble by Hodgson gave Wigan their chance. They drove the ball towards the sticks and Smith put over only the fourth drop-goal of his career.

That could easily have been enough, but Warrington had a drop goal specialist in their camp in Briers, who, by a remarkable co-incidence, also kicked the tying drop–goal in the 17-all draw in 1999.

Wigan Tomkins; Charnley, Goulding, Thorniley, Richards; Green, Smith; Dudson, McIlorum, Mossop, Hughes, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Replacements Flower, Taylor, Powell, Burke.

Warrington Hodgson; J Monaghan, Evans, Atkins, Riley; Briers, Myler; Morley, M Monaghan, Hill, Waterhouse, Westwood, Grix. Replacements Carvell, Cooper, Higham, Ratchford. Referee P Bentham (Warrington)