Wigan Warriors suffered last minute heartbreak as they lost 22-20 at Warrington Wolves on Sunday afternoon, a game played in front of a sell out 13,024 crowd, a large proportion making the short trip from Wigan.
The Warriors, wearing all blue, started the first half by kicking towards the sea of cherry and white shirts at the West end of the ground.
Both teams came into the game with a victory apiece in this season’s three-game series. The Wolves taking the spoils at the JJB in March with a 24-12 victory against their opponents, and the Warriors leveling matter with a 30-12 win, again at the JJB in June. But over the last five weeks both clubs have had contrasting fortunes, the Warriors winning their last five while the Wolves had won only once. However it was the Wolves who took this game in painful manner, Briers kicking a penalty goal in the dying minutes to secure victory.
The Warriors opened the scoring after just one minute when Warrington’s Logan Swann dropped the ball on the third tackle of the game. Wigan opted to kick at goal and Dobson made it 2-0 to the Warriors.
But it was the Wolves who exerted their dominance early in the game upping the tempo and not afraid to throw the ball around. Two penalties took them up the field; Sullivan was held just short of the line in the left hand corner, but the Wolves spread the ball quickly to the right with Martin Gleeson scoring. Briers missed the kick but the Wolves went into the lead 4-2 after 6 minutes.
The Warriors then battled back with some good running and slick hands, but Captain Sean O’Loughlin spilled the ball close to the line. Warrington responded by attacking the Warriors line, a cross field kick was dropped by Kohe Love who picked up the bouncing ball and darted to the Warriors line to score close to the sticks. Briers converted to make it 10-2 after 12 minutes.
An end-to-end battle ensued as the Warriors regained control of possession, but the game remained scoreless until the half time interval. Worryingly for the Warriors winger Brett Dallas left the field with an injury to his left leg after 35 minutes.
Warrington scored first in the second half with a Briers penalty goal after McAvoy picked the ball up in an offside position. 12-2 after 46 minutes.
The Warriors clawed themselves back into the game on 50 minutes as Ashton stole the ball on the Wolves’ 40 meter line. Three tackles set up play before a Danny Orr grubber kick bounced like a pinball under the posts, with Danny Tickle finding himself in possession and scoring the four-pointer. Dobson converted to make it 12-8.
A penalty from Briers made the difference 6 points, but the Warriors drew level on the hour when O’Loughlin picked up Dobson’s grubber out of the clutches of Full Back Stuart Reardon to score under the ‘black dot’. Dobson added the extra’s to make it 14-14.
A nail biting last 20 was in order as Warrington regained the lead on 65 minutes as Brent Grose returned the ball 50 meters from the kick. The ball moving right to left, and then back down the middle with prop Paul Wood scoring 10 meters to the right of the posts. Briers kicked the conversion to make the score 20-14.
Chris Ashton responded immediately for the Warriors after a length of the field break by winger Mark Calderwood. The conversion from Dobson made it 20-20.
A frantic last 10 saw Danny Orr’s drop goal rebounded off the posts, the ball picked up by Fa’afili who was tackled into touch by O’Loughlin. Logan was held on his back and from the play the ball Dobson sent another drop goal attempt wide.
The Wolves faught themselves back down to the Warriors line where a drop goal attempt by Sullivan was blocked by Tickle in an offside position. After consultation with his touch judge, referee Silverwood awarded the penalty which Briers kicked to make it 22-20, a killer blow to a proud and resilient display by the Warriors in scorching temperatures.
Score at Full Time
Warrington Wolves: 22
Tries: Martin Gleeson, Kohe Love, Wood
Goals: Briers (5)
Wigan Warriors: 20
Tries: Tickle, O'Loughlin, Ashton
Goals: Dobson (4)
Warrington Wolves: Reardon, Fa'afili, Martin Gleeson, Kohe Love, Grose, Bridge, Briers, Leikvoll, Sullivan, Wood, Swann, Wainwright, Westwood
Subs: Barnett, Mark Gleeson, Bracek, Parker
Wigan Warriors: Ashton, Calderwood, Radlinski, McAvoy, Dallas, Orr, Dobson, Paleaaesina, Higham, Fielden, Hock, Fletcher, O'Loughlin
Subs: Logan, Tickle, Godwin, Hansen
Referee: Richard Silverwood
Attendance: 13,024 (Capacity)