By Rachel Arnett (image swpix)
Harry Sunderland Man of the Match: Stefan Ratchford
It was down to the final two. The last game of the season. 80 minutes of Rugby League.
Warrington Wolves would take on Wigan Warriors in the Betfred Super League Grand Final.
This was the sixth meeting between the two sides the Warriors going in slightly ahead with three wins.
Both sides named an unchanged 17 from those that won their semi finals last week.
The first half was a tight affair the Wire taking first blood. Wigan levelled the score before edging in front to go in four ahead at the break.
The second half was as close as the first both sides creating chances but both sides’ defence stepping up to the challenge. But it was Wigan who had the final say to take the win.
Sam Tomkins, Dom Manfredi, Oliver Gildart, Dan Sarginson, Tom Davies, George Williams, Tommy Leuluai, Romain Navarrete, Sam Powell, Ben Flower, Joe Greenwood, John Bateman, Sean O’Loughlin
Subs: Morgan Escare, Ryan Sutton, Liam Farrell, Tony Clubb
Tries: Manfredi (2), Davies
Stefan Ratchford, Tom Lineham, Bryson Goodwin, Toby King, Josh Charnley, Kevin Brown, Tyrone Roberts, Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Bodene Thompson, Jack Hughes, Ben Westwood
Subs: Joe Philbin, Ben Murdoch-Masila, George King, Declan Patton
The match kicked off with Wire first in attack. The play was end to end as both sides settled into things. On four minutes Bateman lost possession with a knock-on in the tackle to give Wire the head and feed, but a few plays later a loose ball from the Wire turned things back round.
A loose carry from Westwood resulted in a knock-on on seven minutes, and Wigan had it from 25 metres out. A chance came down their right edge but Lineham stood up in defence resulting in the turnover. Another chance came for Wigan soon after with a tap back in the air from Tomkins but the Wire defence was there to wrap up Navarette on the last.
On 12 minutes it was the turn of the Wire to build some pressure close to the line on the back of a penalty. Sarginson knocked on in the process of wrapping up the ball and the Wire were handed the scrum 10 metres out. And on 13 minutes it was that man Charnley who crossed in the corner for the opening try. Roberts’ touchline conversion attempt just drifted wide. 0-4
Just after the 20-minute mark, Goodwin got to within a fingertip of the line on the last, giving Wigan a lot of work to do in their next set.
A late shot from Thompson on Leuluai gave Wigan the attack from 20 metres out. Play moved from the middle out to the right and a delayed pass from Gildart to Manfredi put the winger over to level the score. A miss-kick from Tomkins kept it 4-4.
On the half hour mark Wigan took the lead, Davies chasing down a kick from Williams; the video referee agreeing with the on-field decision of a try. The kick was missed. 8-4
The Wire followed this up from the scrum coming close with Philbin just short and Ratchford held up over the line on the last with five minutes to the break and four points the difference.
A big hit on Sutton by Hilly gave the Wire sight of the line from 20 metres out. Murdoch-Masila getting agonisingly close before Gildart took Brown’s kick out of play, ready for the drop-out. But a knock-on in the tackle cut that attack short turning possession over to Wigan with three to half time.
The Wire were first to create some pressure in the second half but a weaving run from Manfredi after a kick to the corner from Roberts looked to give Wigan their early chance followed by a penalty against the Wire for markers not being square. Ratchford was on the end of the grubber kick on the last though to end the run.
On 49 minutes Wire had the attack on the back of a drop-out. Play swung to the left edge and a short pass from Goodwin to Lineham looked to have set the winger up but the Wigan defence tackled him into touch just short.
The Wire were forced to drop-out from under the sticks on 53 minutes as Wigan served up another attack at the line. Williams was held up, tackled just shy of the line, and the grubber kick then beat everyone out of play.
A break from Ratchford from half way raised the roof of Wire fans but a loose ball a few plays later was capitalised on by Wigan to regain possession.
As the final quarter approached still very little separated the two sides on the pitch and on the score board.
Roberts had eyes on the line but the ball popped free in the tackle to hand the scrum to Wigan.
A kick from Williams at the other end was chased well down the wing by Charnley and Davies, Charnley taking possession but then tackled into touch; Wigan from the scrum 10 metres out. A looping pass out to the right edge was too high for Gildart to take; back with the Wire.
A high ball from the boot of Roberts on the last, on 63 minutes, was collected well by Toby King but caught in the tackle his offload handed over possession, something Wigan then did just a few plays later to give Wire the scrum.
A penalty to Warrington soon followed as did an onslaught to the line looking for that equaliser. But Charnley was held back on the fifth, knocking on at the play the ball.
Escare put in a drop goal attempt having shown some pace to get Wigan into a scoring position but the effort went wide as the final 10 minutes approached.
On 70 minutes Wigan opted to go for goal on the back of a penalty, lining up the kick from on half way. Tomkins’ boot was off the mark. 8-4
Manfredi was the one to score, crossing in the corner with just three minutes on the clock taking a sweeping pass from this left. Tomkins missed the conversion. 12-4
Toby King looked to have restored hope but the try was denied after referring to the video referee.