By Rachel Arnett (images by swpix)
Warrington Wolves hosted rivals Wigan Warriors in the sixth round of the Coral Challenge Cup.
The home side went in riding high in the league but it’s a clean slate when it comes to the knock-out competition of the Cup.
The Wire won the game earlier in the year between the two sides but with place in the quarter finals at stake there was everything to play for in this one.
Warrington made two changes to the side that faced Castleford last time out; with Bryson Goodwin and Ben Murdoch-Masila returning, in place of Jack Johnson and Harvey Livett.
The opposition made several changes to their side from the previous week with Dan Sarginson, Tony Clubb and Joe Burgess back in the side with Morgan Escare, Joe Shorrocks and Morgan Smithies out.
The first half was a close-fought 40 minutes with the Wire in front by three tries to two. Crossing for the home side were Goodwin, Hughes and Clark.
The second half was on the edge of your seat stuff, as Wigan drew back level, just a penalty goal gave the Wire the edge going into the final few minutes. And that proved enough to seal the win and book Warrington’s place in the quarter finals.
Stefan Ratchford, Bryson Goodwin, Ryan Atkins, Toby King, Josh Charnley, Blake Austin, Declan Patton, Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Ben Currie, Jack Hughes, Matt Davis
Subs: Jason Clark, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Joe Philbin, Sitaleki Akauola
Tries: Goodwin, Hughes, D Clark, Atkins
Goals: Ratchford (5)
Zak Hardaker, Liam Marshall, Dan Sarginson, Oliver Gildart, Joe Burgess, George Williams, Thomas Leuluai, Ben Flower, Sam Powell, Romain Navarrete, Willie Isa, Joe Greenwood, Tony Clubb
Subs: Joe Bullock, Chris Hankinson, Sean O’Loughlin, Taulima Tautai
Tries: Powell, Leuluai, Sarginson, Hardaker
Goals: Hardaker (4)
Three minutes in and the Wire were the first to challenge the line for a try; quick hands out to the right edge couldn’t quite put Charnley over.
Nothing was going to stop Goodwin going over on seven minutes though. A knock-on from Wigan handed the attack to the home side, from there they pressed the line moving play over to the left where space opened up to go over in the corner. Ratchford added the touchline conversion to make it 6-0.
The Warriors looked to have responded on 13 minutes, a big hit on Austin by Leulaui knocked the ball from the Wire number six’s grasp. The loose ball was passed to Sarginson who then had the legs to run 70 minutes, with Goodwin in pursuit, to cross. The video referee chalked the score off after taking a closer look though, handing the penalty to Wigan at the restart for the first knock-on.
As the first quarter came to a close, Ratchford showed some pace down the right, with Charnley in support, but knocked on in the tackle 20 metres out.
Powell was on the end of a kick from Leuluai, touching down under the posts, but with a lot going on in the build-up the video referee took a look, this time awarding the four-pointer to the visitors. The kick from Hardaker levelled the score on 25 minutes, 6-6.
The Wire hit back straight away, Hughes with the reach in the tackle to ground the ball. The on-field decision was no try but the video referee thought differently and awarded the score. Ratchford put boot to ball to make it 12-6.
But again Wigan were to have their say when on 34 minutes Leuluai was over for the visitors. A Wire knock-on handed the Warriors head and feed from 30 metres out, from their they played along the line before space open for the number seven to score. Hardaker’s goal levelled things again. 12-12
It wasn’t long until it was try time again for the home side as Daryl Clark raced round the defence to score under the sticks setting up an easy conversion for Ratchford taking the lead back once again. 18-12 at the break.
The Wire conceded a penalty early on in the second half and Wigan opted to go for goal and narrow the gap. Hardaker kicked the two. 18-14
But on 47 minutes the home side took back control of the scoreboard with a try for Atkins crossing down the left edge. Ratchford was on target with the goal. 24-14. This try for Atkins makes him the club’s fifth highest try-scorer of all time.
Staying in hot pursuit Wigan went over five minutes later; the try for Sarginson was given on the field and the video referee confirmed the four-pointer. Hardaker added the touchline conversion. 24-20
Shortly after, Hardaker had the reach to touch down for Wigan, but again the decision was referred to the video referee. This score levelled things at 24-24 with the kick to come. The fullback couldn’t convert his own try from the touchline.
With less than 15 minutes of the game remaining the Wire kept the pressure on Wigan, forcing repeat sets to defend from a drop-out. Wigan conceded a penalty for not moving away at the play the ball. The Wire, as expected, opted to go for goal lining the kick up directly in front. Ratchford landed the two to edge the lead. 26-24
A knock-on from Charnley on the back of a high ball into the sun, served up a chance for Wigan at close range but the Wire defence stood firm. A drop-out did follow giving the visitors another chance but Navarrete fumbled the ball handing possession back to the home side with three minutes to go.
Despite Wigan’s best efforts the Wire held on to the win.