Wigan 32 Wakefield 22: Mathers sent off but Wigan clinch their play-off spot

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The Independent Online

Twelve-man Wigan made mathematically certain of their place in the Super League play-offs, although they were pushed most of the way by a Wakefield side striving to end their long wait for a win.

The dismissal of Richie Mathers, the third Wigan player sent off in the last four home games, made the contest tighter than it should have been, but Wigan recovered their composure in time to cement their top-six spot. "It looked harsh to me," said the Wigan coach, Brian Noble, of the sending off. "We were well in control and to guts it out after that was pretty impressive from us.".

Wakefield were delayed by a steamroller falling off its trailer on the M62, hardly the ideal preparation for a side which had lost seven on the trot. Despite that they took a third-minute lead through Danny Brough's penalty capitalising on a couple of knock-ons and a ball-stealing offence. A similar penalty four minutes later allowed Brough to double that lead.

Wigan, without the injured Trent Barrett, were struggling to find their rhythm and even when presented with an inviting chance through an Oliver Wilkes fumble, wasted the possession through Thomas Leuluai's knock-on. They finally got started after 18 minutes when Damien Blanch was penalised at a play-the-ball and Tim Smith, Barrett's potential long-term replacement, sold a dummy to create his first try for the club, with Pat Richards' kick putting Wigan ahead. Smith was also involved in the second Wigan try, although it was Leuluai's footwork to beat two defenders and lunge for the line that did most of the damage.

Tevita Leo-Latu's handling error set the scene for the third, scored by Cameron Phelps as Wigan exploited a big overlap on the right. Wakefield, after showing enthusiasm in the opening stages, were back to square one.

The balance of the game, however, tilted just before half-time when Mathers was sent off, for the second time this season, for catching Jason Demetriou with a raised forearm. Wakefield began to benefit from their man advantage when the former Wigan forward Danny Sculthorpe muscled his way over from close range early in the second half.

Brough landed the goal then led an attack which ended with Brad Drew's pass sending Duncan MacGillivray for the converted try that put the Wildcats level. Wigan steadied the ship slightly through Richards' penalty when Sculthorpe went high on Mickey Higham, who claimed another four points with a short-range drive. Back came the Wildcats through Wilkes. Brough's kick left a two-point gap, doubled when Leo-Latu went high in the tackle and Joel Tomkins made it safe from Leuluai's kick two minutes from time.

Wigan: Mathers; Calderwood, Phelps, Carmont, Richards; Smith, Leuluai; Fielden, Higham, Coley, Bailey, Hansen, Tomkins. Substitutes: Paleaaesina, Colbon, McIlorum, O'Carroll.

Wakefield: Grix; Blanch, Gleeson, Atkins, Petersen; Rooney, Brough; Wilkes, Drew, Moore, Demetriou, Golden, Sculthorpe. Substitutes: MacGillivray, Bibey, Leo-Latu, Bibb.

Referee: B Thaley (Wakefield).

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