Harlequins 31 Wigan 30: McLinden's drop goal helps Harlequins hang on to Super League spot

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The Independent Online

Harlequins secured their Super League lives with this thrilling victory. Wigan, whose own top-flight status was ensured only with Castleford's defeat on Friday night, saw their faint play-off hopes end.

Leading by 19 points with 20 minutes left, Harlequins looked home and dry but three Wigan tries in 13 minutes had them hanging on.

Quins got off to a super start, Lee Hopkins scoring after fine work by Chad Randall and Solomon Haumono. Henry Paul added both goals but Wigan were back in it courtesy of a bizarre try. Chris Ashton's kick on the restart bounced back off the crossbar into the arms of Bryan Fletcher and the Australian second-rower flopped over, looking understandably surprised.

It took a vibrant Quins side only three minutes to restore their 12-point lead, Luke Dorn making the Great Britain prop Stuart Fielden look like a novice with a superb step-and-go.

Paul added a penalty before Sean O'Loughlin beat Mark McLinden to Danny Orr's kick. Mick Dobson drove over the conversion to reduce the gap to eight points. Quins finished a tumultuous half with McLinden dropping a long distance goal.

The atmosphere got even hotter in the second half. The huge away contingent thought the referee, Phil Bentham, had it in for Wigan when he disallowed three tries but much of the damage was self-inflicted, Ashton comically fumbling a high ball and Fielden gifting field position with a woeful offload.

When Hopkins got his second of the afternoon and Haumono followed suit with a rampage through Wigan's static back field, Quins celebrated as if the job was done. Pat Richards' delightful pass for Fletcher to touch down smacked of end-of-season carefree spirit, but there were still 20 minutes left and 13 points in it.

Paul missed a relatively simple penalty and the Wigan fans were exultant when Fletcher completed his hat-trick in front of them. That was nothing to the noise that greeted Dobson's try two minutes later, his conversions reducing Quins' lead to a point with seven minutes left.

The home side were determined to hang on. It will be 26 years this Thursday since the London club made their debut with a shock win over Wigan at Fulham. Wigan went up that season and have stayed up ever since. This result guarantees the pair will meet again next year.

Harlequins: McLinden; Gafa, Smith, Luisi, Stewart; Paul, Darn; Heckenburg, Randall, Haumono, Purdham, Hopkins, Noone. Substitutes used: Budworth, Williams, Mills, Leuluai.

Wigan: Ashton; Calderwood, Vaealiki, McEvoy, Richards; Orr, Dobson; Fielden, Higham, Paleaaesina, Hock, Fletcher, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: Logan, Tickle, Godwin, Hansen.

Referee: P Bentham (Warrington).

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