By Alan Domville (images courtesy of swpix)
Warrington confirmed their place in the semi-finals of the Betfred Super League Super 8s by eliminating their only rivals, fifth-placed Huddersfield, from the running with this victory at The Halliwell Jones Stadium.
But it was touch and go all the way: the Giants led by two points at the interval and Wire held on to win by the same margin, the visitors’ playmaker Danny Brough just failing to kick a penalty from the half-way line after the final hooter had gone.
Bryson Goodwin won the sponsors’ man of the match award for the second week running, scoring two tries, the second of them taking Wire six points ahead before that nervy finish that included a drop goal effort from Tyrone Roberts that sailed wide.
Wolves’ head coach Steve Price was able to include Ryan Atkins in the starting line-up, selecting him in the unfamiliar position of second row – it was his first appearance since he collected an injury at Wakefield in June – while Harvey Livett was also back in the side. Atkins celebrated his return scoring Wire’s second try.
Huddersfield restored the speedy Jake Mamo to their starting line-up and he scored a first-half hat-trick.
Stefan Ratchford, Tom Lineham, Bryson Goodwin, Toby King, Josh Charnley, Kevin Brown, Tyrone Roberts, Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Jack Hughes, Ryan Atkins, Harvey Livett
Subs: George King, Declan Patton, Joe Philbin, Ben Pomeroy
Tries: Goodwin (2), Atkins, Ratchford, Lineham
Goals: Roberts (3)
Sin Bin: Mike Cooper (14mins) high tackle
Jordan Rankin, Jake Mamo, Jordan Turner, Jacob Wardle, Innes Senior, Lee Gaskell, Danny Brough, Ukuma Ta’ai, Adam O’Brien, Suaia Matagi, Alex Mellor, Oliver Roberts, Ryan Hinchcliffe
Subs: Kruise Leeming, Michael Lawrence, Paul Clough, Daniel Smith
Tries: Mamo (3), Gaskell, Wardle
Goals: Brough (2)
Stefan Ratchford kicked off towards the West Stand and in their first set Huddersfield lost Alex Mellor with a facial injury sustained near their own line.
The set ended with a penalty for a high tackle and the Giants took the ball all the way to Warrington’s line before surrendering possession after the fifth tackle.
Goodwin put Warrington back on the offensive with a determined run and Toby King was hauled down just short of the whitewash.
Mike Cooper then crossed but he was unable to shake off the defenders before referee James Child cried held. Then came a chance for Josh Charnley but he just failed to collect a low pass from Atkins.
Roberts kicked to the line and Jake Wardle collected but conceded a drop out.
The Wire scrum half kicked through once again and this time Brough was able to take the ball but he was brought down – and stayed down for a while – after making his way back into play.
From the penalty, Huddersfield took the ball back into Wire territory and a tackle on O’Brien resulted in a scuffle involving several players. The result was a yellow card for Mike Cooper.
The ball went to the right and Mamo crossed in the corner despite seemingly having stepped into touch. Brough failed to add the extras.
Another Roberts’ kick was charged down by a Huddersfield defender to give Wire another six tackles – but they didn’t need them. Ratchford scooped up the ball and put Goodwin away, the centre racing under the sticks. Roberts converted to put Wire ahead 6-4.
Daryl Clark made several powerful breaks to put Roberts away. Charnley continued the move but was held down in the tackle.
A minute later the visitors were given a team warning for repeating the offence.
Kevin Brown then steamed over but the referee ruled that the slick pass from Ratchford had travelled forward.
Soon afterwards the scores were level when Brough kicked a penalty and then came a terrific break from Mamo who took a pass from Michael Lawrence and outpaced Livett and Cooper from his own half to the line. No goal again from Brough but the Giants were ahead 10-6.
Four minutes from the interval Ratchford went close and then Joe Philbin made valuable metres from his own line to trigger another raid.
It ended with Atkins twisting in the tackle and reaching out for the line to equalise the scores yet again and Roberts converted.
But in a frantic finish to the half Wire surrendered possession and Huddersfield capitalised, Ukuma Ta’ai putting Mamo away for his third touchdown. Brough failed to improve yet again but the sides turned round with the Giants two points in front.
Philbin impressed once again with another fine drive from his own line and Goodwin looked to have scored again but the referee ruled that he had been held up.
A Toby King kick to the line made Huddersfield concede another drop-out from the sticks but Wire would then be penalised for crossing.
Toby’s brother George entered the fray and made his mark immediately with the first of several determined drives upfield.
Chris Hill also resumed at this point and he made an impact straight away, sending Ratchford between the posts. Roberts converted and Wire were back in the lead at 18-14.
Two minutes later, Hill made yet another great break and Livett was able to send Tom Lineham over in the corner with a trademark spectacular dive.
No goal from Roberts but Wire were now eight points in front and another try would surely clinch matters.
And it seemed on when Ratchford raced upfield yet again, beating man after man, but with only full back Jordan Rankin to beat he slipped as he headed towards the line.
Warrington were in the ascendancy but the Giants wouldn’t lie down and fought their way back into the game when Lee Gaskell touched down behind the posts after winger Innes Senior had made a telling break down the left.
Brough made no mistake with his conversion this time and once again it was a two-point ball game.
Another Roberts’ kick to the line was collected by Jordan Turner but he was forced back over his line earning Wire possession from another kick from the sticks.
Roberts appeared to have touched down soon afterwards but the referee ruled that he had been held up – but two minutes later Goodwin struck again, collecting a kick from the Wire number sevcn.
There were just 11 minutes left but they would seem endless as both sides continued to contest the issue. Roberts attempted to settle things with a drop goal but his kicked sailed wide.
Jack Hughes was then penalised for a seemingly innocuous tackle and Wardle followed up Gaskell’s kick to the line to touch down.
Three minutes were left and two points was the margin once again. Brough missed the conversion, however, to the relief of the Wire fans. But there was still more drama to come.
Quick hands put the visitors in a dangerous position again but Mamo failed to take the final pass and knocked on.
Fingers were crossed and nails were bitten as the seconds ticked by and Huddersfield were forced back to their own line.
But Wire conceded a penalty on half way just before the hooter and Brough lined up to take the kick that would earn his side a point.
He missed, the nervous home crowd breathed again – and the curtain came down on what had been a terrific end-to-end match.