Warrington Wolves 16 Wigan Warriors 30 match report: Warriors battle to stunning victory
Wigan overturn 16-2 deficit in remarkable fightback as injury to Joel Monaghan undermines Wolves
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Sunday 06 October 2013
Wigan staged the biggest come-back in Grand Final history to become only the third side in the summer era to do the double.
Last month's Challenge Cup-winners trailed by 16-2 shortly before half-time here last night but they dominated after the break to win the battle between two sets of wounded warriors.
It was fitting that the clinching points came from a try scored by Blake Green, who had been knocked cold in the first two minutes, and two goals and a try from the departing Pat Richards – the try set up by a pass from Sean O'Loughlin, a captain who defied medical science to be on the field.
The Wolves had their own troubles, with serious injuries to Joel Monaghan and Stefan Ratchford, which illustrated what a tough contest this was, but it was Wigan who dealt better with their misfortunes. In the first half, they might have looked determined to squander their chances but they made up for it in style in the second.
Their proud coach Shaun Wane, Wigan born and bred, called it "the sort of thing you dream about", while Sam Tomkins, after what was his last match for Wigan, termed it "a fairytale finish", adding: "It was the best game of my life."
Warrington's coach Tony Smith was critical of the Harrison Hansen tackle that left Ratchford with damaged ligaments in both ankles, but refused to blame injuries for the result. "Whoever we had on the pitch, they were capable," he said. "But Wigan were very good near our line. Our discipline wasn't good enough and if you give Wigan field position they're going to hurt you."
Both sides were fortunate in the first incident of the match; Wigan that Green was not worse hurt by the punch in the face, Warrington that the perpetrator, Ben Westwood, was not detected throwing it.
Higham was spotted stealing the ball from Liam Farrell, for Richards to give the Warriors the lead with a penalty, after which Green recovered sufficiently to put in a 40‑20 kick that put them on the attack once more.
From that point on, it all went wrong for Wigan, starting with Josh Charnley being penalised for dragging Richie Myler into touch. From that possession, Lee Briers launched one of his trademark kicks for the corner, plucked out of the air and grounded by Joel Monaghan.
Richards put his kick-off straight out, the Wolves attacked again and Simon Grix scored their second try from Higham's pass.
Warrington then made it a potentially match-winning three tries in seven minutes when Briers this time drew the defence to create a gap and sent Westwood in.
The Wolves were coasting but they were brought down to earth when Joel Monaghan was carried off with what looked a serious head and neck injury suffered in defending his line.
They suffered another blow as the half came to an end. All Wigan's attacking initiatives down the right-hand flank, normally so prolific for them, had come to nothing. Darrell Goulding took matters into his own hands for a much-needed try before the break, although Richards' surprising missed conversion still left them 10 points in arrears.
That was close enough to keep it interesting, although only two teams had come back from a half-time deficit to win a Grand Final. There was no time to lose for Wigan, but Farrell lost the ball heading for the line as chances continued to come and go for the 2010 winners.
Their heads were lifted, though, when their hooker Michael McIlorum sold a dummy from acting half and darted over, Richards' kick reducing the margin to four points.
Less welcome was the sight of O'Loughlin limping off, the gamble on his fitness clearly only a qualified success. Undeterred, Wigan tied up the scores with Charnley's try from Goulding's kick, Richards' conversion giving them the lead for the first time since the opening minutes.
Charnley missed a chance for another while Warrington were still rocking. Both sides were playing wounded and it was just a matter of which one of them adapted better.
Back came the gallant captain O'Loughlin and Tomkins was held up over the try-line. The game remained in the balance before Green and Richards completed the remarkable fightback.
Warrington Ratchford; J.Monaghan, Bridge, Atkins, Riley; Briers, Myler; Hill, Higham, Wood, Grix, Westwood, Harrison. Substitutes used: Cooper, M Monaghan, Morley, Carvell.
Wigan Tomkins; Charnley, Goulding, Thornley, Richards; Green, Smith; Dudson, McIlorum, Mossop, Farrell, Hansen, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: Flower, Hughes, Crosby, Taylor.
Referee R Silverwood (Mirfield).
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