By Rachel Arnett (images by swpix)
Warrington Wolves travelled the short journey to the DW Stadium to take on rivals Wigan Warriors in round 20 of the Betfred Super League.
This game saw second take on third with just two points separating them going into the fixture.
The sides had met on three previous occasions this year with the Wire securing a win in the league and the cup, and the Warriors taking the spoils at Magic Weekend.
The Wire were able to welcome back Stefan Ratchford and Chris Hill after being rested last week, Mitch Brown moving onto the bench.
Wigan lined up without captain Sean O’Loughlin who failed a late fitness test. In a change to the side that beat Leeds last week Ben Flower, Liam Paisley and Callum Field made the 17 in place of Romain Navarrete, Joe Greenwood and O’Loughlin.
The first half saw Wigan go in two tries to one ahead. King going over for the Wire. The visitors faced several periods of repeat pressure on the try line by the Warriors but the defence was able to stand its ground to keep them out.
The second half continued in the same vein, closely contested and the Wire pulled back to draw level with tries from Lineham and Charnley but in the dying seconds the boot of Woods added the one-pointer to snatch the spoils.
Sam Tomkins, Tom Davies, John Bateman, Oliver Gildart, Liam Marshall, Josh Woods, Sam Powell, Tony Clubb, Thomas Leuluai, Ben Flower, Willie Isa, Liam Farrell, Gabe Hamlin
Interchanges: Morgan Escare, Callum Field, Liam Paisley, Taulima Tautai
Tries: Davies, Paisley
Goals: Tomkins (2)
Drop Goal: Woods
Stefan Ratchford, Tom Lineham, Bryson Goodwin, Toby King, Josh Charnley, Kevin Brown, Tyrone Roberts, Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Sitaleki Akauola, Jack Hughes, Ben Westwood
Interchanges: Dominic Crosby, Declan Patton, Joe Philbin, Mitch Brown
Tries: King, Lineham, Charnley
Ratchford kicked things off with the Wire first up in defence. Early on, a loose ball from Wigan went to ground, in the challenge a Wire hand knocked it forward handing a repeat set to Wigan. The Wire defence held firm though and Goodwin was a safe pair of hands to collect the kick. Similarly the pressure from the Wire defence forced an error after a break by Wigan down their left edge.
On eight minutes a run by Westwood was met with applause from the travelling support. At the end of that set a high ball was challenged and the Wire came away with possession from the scrum 10 metres out. A loose pass was played at by the Warriors giving the Wire another chance to back up and build pressure. Ratchford attempted to dummy his way over but was held up over the line.
13 minutes in and Davies was over for the first try of the game in the corner. A grubber kick by Tomkins was patted out of play by Charnley to prevent the try but from the resultant drop-out the ball moved out to the right and Davies had the lean to stay in field and the legs to get the score. Tomkins adding the conversion.
The Wire response was almost immediate when on 18 minutes quick hands, and well-timed passes, out the right edge saw King stay low and go over for the try. The touchline conversion was missed. 6-4.
Another try looked set to follow when Lineham had the pace down the left edge and Ratchford on his inside in support, but the pass back inside couldn’t be taken cleanly and it was a scrum to Wigan.
A look by the video referee confirmed the next Wigan try as Paisley forced the ball down in the tackle; following a repeat period of pressure from the home side. Tomkins added the two. 12-4
With two minutes of the first half to go, the Wire had to defend from back-to-back drop-outs. But they managed to keep their composure until the break going in 12-4 behind.
Seven minutes into the second half and a Roberts’ kick across to the corner looked promising but Goodwin couldn’t quite take it and Wigan regained possession.
The Wire came close again after Wigan were pulled up for an incorrect play the ball, but Westwood turned over possession in the tackle, engulfed by Wigan defenders.
As the final quarter of the game got underway Lineham was over in the corner. The Wire took possession from 40 metres out after Hamlin was penalised for interference at play the ball. From there the Wire kept the ball alive – Cooper and Westwood both targeting the line – before space opened for Lineham to take the pass. Ratchford was unable to add the conversion.
With less than 10 minutes of the match to go the Warriors had a chance from 30 metres out after the Wire were penalised for lifting in the tackle. Lineham went in to make a tackle a few plays later getting a hand to the ball knocking it forward; scrum to Wigan. Charnley was under the ball on the last kick though to take it cleanly and negate the pressure.
The intensity lifted going into the final five minutes. Cooper made big strides towards the line, as the Wire opened up another chance; quick hands forced a loose ball to ground which Wigan landed on to regain possession.
On 74 minutes Charnley crossed the line in the corner, the question of a try was sent to the video referee. And the try was given, the Wire fans erupted and Ratchford lined up the difficult touchline kick at 12-12. It drifted just wide keeping things all square.
With just seconds left on the clock space opened up for Woods to slot over the drop goal. The final whistle blew 13-12.