Wigan Warriors completed their pre-season programme with a defensive performance that suggests it will take a good team to break them down, while Warrington were not as clinical with ball in hand having scored over 100 points in games against Championship Widnes and Leigh.
The Wolves named a 21 man squad, skippered by testimonial man Jon Clarke who has played over 220 times for Warrington. Paul Wood missed out with a hamstring injury while Wigan experimented with Joel Tomkins in the centre and George Carmont on the wing to cover the absense of former Wolves player Martin Gleeson and point scoring wing Pat Richards.
The Wolves edged the opening exchanges with Lee Briers threading a kick through the posts that was just too strong for the chasing players to latch onto. It wasn’t long before Wigan began to pressure Warrington with their defence and after an ambitous pass was spilled inside their own twenty metre area by the Wolves, Sam Tomkins scooped up and quick as a flash darted between two players to claim a try he also goaled after six minutes.
Warrington tried to respond and Adrian Morley certainly upped the intensity in the middle of the field but every time the ball came wide off Briers, Brett Hodgson and Richie Myler, Wigan scrambled quickly and the Wolves resorted to kicks to tryand break down the defence.
Warrington thought they had fashioned a reply in the 13th minute when Briers kicked for Joel Monaghan before the former Canberra Raider kicked in the opposite direction for Myler to race through and ground the ball, but he was ruled to be offside.
With Ryan Hoffman making good inroads, the Warriors continued toadvance downfield and turn Warrington around. It was as if Wigan were playing Warrington at arms length, despite inviting their attacks. Ryan Atkins was denied by a knock-on and Warrington squandered further chances before the Warriors tapped a penalty on their own line and marched sixty metres in the set. Newly installed captain Sean O’Loughlin led from the front and a Paul Deacon kick was fumbled by the Wolves allowing Wigan another set of possession. The Warriors didn’t need asking twice and forced their way through when Deacon’s pass saw Liam Farrell charge over the line for a great try. Deacon’s conversion made it 12-0 and although Warrington again got down to the Wigan goal-line, great defence first forced a knock-on from David Solomona before strong tackling from Stefan Marsh and Darrell Goulding forced Matt King out of play.
Warrington just couldn’t unlock the defence and when they did, it came as a surprise in the closing stages of the first half. Sevens style passing stretched Wigan’s defence out to their right before a scratchy inside pass from Hodgson was converted into a try by Briers. Hodgson goaled and Warrington were back in the contest at 12-6.
At the start of the second half, Wigan kicked the ball out of play on the full and then conceded three penalties in a row. Joel Monaghan got to a Briers crossfield kick but could not ground the ball before going out of the ingoal area. Other than that, Wigan’s line stood firm and after absorbing everything that the Wolves could throw at them, Warriors responded with two tries in five minutes to take them into a comfortable looking 24-6 lead.
Farrell again caused problems only to be felled close to the line after Chris Tuson‘s forceful drive. From dummy half, Thomas Leuluai attacked and somehow managed to twist over for Deacon to convert. The halfback was then on hand moments later to add the crowning glory to a blockbusting run by Tuson that appeared to be checked by Hodgson’s high tackle, only for the young forward to brush through and over the line.
As the game entered its final quarter, mistakes began to mount and Warrington eventually punished Wigan when Rhys Williams continued his first team scoring run to plunder another try from Hodgson’s well-placed grubber. Again Hodgson was on target before handing the kicking duties to Ben Westwood who converted a fine try from testimonial man Jon Clarke in the last minute.
Although the game was gone, credit must be given to the Wolves for the excellent finish as Ryan Atkins put a lovely pass out to Williams who thundered down the wing before unselfishly handing to Clarke.
Brett Hodgson (2/2 G), Matt King, Chris Bridge, Ryan Atkins, Joel Monaghan; Lee Briers (39 mins T), Richie Myler, Adrian Morley, Jon Clarke (79 mins T), Ben Harrison, Louis Anderson, Ben Westwood (1/1 G), Simon Grix. Subs: Michael Monaghan, Mike Cooper, David Solomona, Rhys Williams (68 mins T), Mickey Higham, Tyrone McCarthy, Lee Mitchell, Matty Blythe.
Amos Roberts, Darrell Goulding, Stefan Marsh, Joel Tomkins, George Carmont, Paul Deacon (3/3 G), Thomas Leuluai (53 mins T), Paul Prescott, Micahel McIlorum, Jeff Lima, Ryan Hoffman, Liam Farrell (27 mins T), Sean O’Loughlin. Subs: Sam Tomkins (6 mins T, 1/1 G), Andy Coley, Lee Mossop, Chris Tuson (57 mins T), Josh Charnley, Logan Tomkins.
Referee: Phil Bentham
Half-time: 12-6 to Wigan
Full-time: 24-18 to Wigan