An opportunist try from veteran scrum-half Adrian Lam kept alive Wigan's Grand Final hopes and prolonged his distinguished career at least for another week.
The prospect of retirement loomed large for the 34-year-old when the Warriors trailed 14-0 to surprise packet Wakefield in Friday night's Super League elimination semi-final at the JJB Stadium. The Wildcats, 150-1 rank outsiders at the start of the play-offs, were still 14-12 ahead eight minutes from the end when Lam spotted a rare chink in the visitors' defence and nipped over from acting half-back for the match-winning try.
"As the clock was ticking down, for once in my life there were negative thoughts sneaking into my head," said Lam. "Luckily I got that try at the end there to prolong it for another week at least.
"My eyes lit up, because there was such a big hole. As a coach of the opposition, it breaks your heart when you concede a try from dummy half. You prepare to not let those crappy tries in, but luckily we got one."
Wigan's 18-14 victory earns them a trip to either Leeds or Bradford in Friday's final eliminator, but their coach, Denis Betts, knows his side must find a major improvement in form if they are to reach a fifth Grand Final.
Their defence cracked three times in the space of seven minutes early in the game as Wakefield ran in tries through Colum Hal-penny, Duncan Macgillivray and David Solomona, and they would have been further behind but for an off-day by goalkicker David March.
Tries from man-of-the- match Kris Radlinski and Kevin Brown got the Warriors back into contention by half-time, but they could never master a resolute Wakefield side, and even Farrell had an hard time with the boot, missing three kicks at goal.
At least Lam managed to spare the home side's blushes, but Betts admitted: "We know we're going to have to start playing with the ball a bit more to achieve what we're after this year. But at this stage of the year it's all about winning, and I thought we were worthy winners. At times we were woeful with the ball, but there is a lot of character, determination and grit in this team."
Wakefield, who knocked out third-placed Hull in the last round, were left to reflect on another wonderful effort, even if they were denied a fairytale ending to their best-ever Super League season.
Their coach, Shane McNally, has transformed the Wildcats from perennial relegation strugglers to potential Grand Finalists, and hopes their achievements this year will at last gain them respect.
"I'm not sure if people have given us the credit we deserve," he said. "I guess we'll have to back it up next season and the season after before that happens. It's a learning exper-ience for the guys. They've got that under their belt now and, hopefully, if we get in a similar position next year, things might be different."Reuse content