Wigan's Cup hangover lets slip Shield chance to hungry Wolves

Warrington 39 Wigan 12

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The Independent Online

The battle for the League Leaders' Shield will go to the last weekend of the regular season, after Warrington exploited Wigan's Wembley hangover to leapfrog them into first place.

The Challenge Cup-winners must now beat Crusaders on Friday night and hope the Wolves slip up at Hull – something few who witnessed this performance yesterday would predict.

On top of that, Wigan's Gareth Hock and Sam Tomkins could both face action from the league this week, Hock over a potentially serious allegation of gouging Ben Harrison. For a side that was celebrating last weekend, this was very much the flip side of the coin.

"There may have been a fatigue factor, but we don't really buy into that," said their coach, Michael Maguire. "A fair few of our players didn't perform the way they're capable of." The same could not have been said of Warrington, heroically led by Adrian Morley, despite him being booked in for an eye operation this week.

With Wigan missing only Lee Mossop from last weekend's Cup-winning team and Morley returning to lead the Wolves after a nine-game absence, the stage was set for a genuine crunch match with nothing held back.

Wigan were under pressure from the moment Sam Tomkins' error allowed Chris Bridge's kick-off to run dead, but it took Warrington almost 10 minutes to breach their try-line, Matt King flying high to take Lee Briers' kick in the corner.

A penalty against Ryan Hoffman for holding down in the tackle soon put the Wolves in a similar attacking position and Wigan might have expected a similar ploy. Briers, however, has made a career of never doing quite what is expected and this time his grubber kick rebounded from Thomas Leuluai back into his arms for the second try.

Richie Myler's incisive break down the left set up Michael Monaghan for the third. Even when Wigan made a clean break themselves, courtesy of the newly-arrived Hock, Sam Tomkins put the ball on the ground.

Another mistake,by Harrison Hansen, was then punished by Monaghan, with Paul Deacon's solo effort the only ray of light for the Warriors. Even then, the imaginative Monaghan had the last word in the first half with a surprise drop-goal.

Wigan badly needed to score first after the break, but the return of Morley and Garreth Carvell rejuvenated the Wolves' midfield defence and kept chances to a minimum. Instead, Jon Clarke got over from close range on the hour, an incident that triggered a brawl when Briers believed that Sam Tomkins had gone in with his feet on the scorer.

No sooner had order been restored than Joel Monaghan was intercepting from Brett Finch to go 85 metres. Wigan scored a late try through Sean O'Loughlin, but that was scant consolation on an afternoon when they came down to earth with a mighty thud.

Warrington Riley; J Monaghan, Bridge, Atkins, King; Briers, Myler; Morley, M Monaghan, Carvell, Anderson, Grix, Cooper. Substitutes used Clarke, Harrison, Mitchell, Blythe.

Wigan S Tomkins; Charnley, J Tomkins, Carmont, Richards; Finch, Deacon; Coley, Leuluai, Lima, Hansen, Hoffman, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used McIlorum, Prescott, Farrell, Hock.

Referee R.Silverwood (Mirfield).