Wigan Warriors triumph, ill-discipline costs Catalans, Tomkins bows out a legend – Five takeaways as Matt Peet’s side win first Grand Final in five years

Ben Olawumi
Liam Marshall, Wigan Warriors, Grand Final 2023

Liam Marshall celebrates his try as Wigan Warriors win the 2023 Grand Final - Alamy

Wigan Warriors claimed a first Super League title in five years – and their first of the Matt Peet era – courtesy of a 10-2 win over Catalans Dragons in the Grand Final at Old Trafford.

Here are our five takeaways from the showpiece…

Wigan reign supreme

Having guided his hometown club to a first Challenge Cup triumph in nine years last term, Matt Peet’s second campaign in charge ends in a Grand Final triumph, Wigan’s first since 2018.

There were times throughout 2023 when this looked a million miles away, including in Round 1 of the season when they lost at Hull KR.

The Robins also knocked them out of the Challenge Cup at the semi-final stage in July, but they’ve used that heartbreak as fuel, and simply not looked back since.

Recent weeks have seen the Warriors rampant, winning all nine of their last regular season Super League games before sweeping aside KR in the semi-finals last weekend.

Albeit Peet’s men weren’t at their free-flowing best for periods of tonight’s Grand Final, they looked assured in defence throughout and always carry a potent attacking threat. The future looks bright at the DW Stadium.

Harry Smith: Conversion King

Half-back Harry Smith – who spoke exclusively to Love Rugby League ahead of the Grand Final – has come under fire throughout this year for his conversion woes.

There was none of that to be seen tonight though, the Warriors academy product was perfect with the boot to help them earn a sixth Super League title.

Successfully sending a two-pointer over to open the scoring, he then added the extras when Liam Marshall slid over midway for a try midway through the second half, and extended their advantage to eight with another penalty soon after that. Conversion woes? Banished.

Jake Wardle puts in Man of the Match showing

Jake Wardle picked up the Harry Sunderland Trophy at Old Trafford having put in a tremendous showing throughout the 80 minutes, crowning a glorious first year with the Cherry and Whites.

He becomes the 12th Warriors player to scoop the accolade, and the first since skipper Liam Farrell in 2016 for his performance in their Grand Final triumph over Warrington Wolves.

Two years later as Wigan beat the same opponents at Old Trafford, Wolves ace Stefan Ratchford won the award despite coming out on the losing side, a rarity.

Centre Wardle – who was named in the Super League Dream Team – told Sky Sports that he was ‘lost for words’ in a post-match interview pitchside, but ‘outstanding’ would be the one we’d use to describe him not just tonight but all year round.

Catalans succumb to ill-discipline

Steve McNamara’s side survived the 10 minutes they spent down a man in the first half following Adam Keighran’s sin-binning for a tip tackle on Kai Pearce-Paul, but couldn’t see out the second lot of 10 when reduced to 12 early on in the second half with Tom Davies’ yellow card.

Ex-Warriors winger Davies held back counterpart Marshall as Wigan broke forward in search of the first try of the contest, and was sat down for 10 minutes by referee Liam Moore.

In the moments which followed, a Wigan onslaught came their way, and Marshall was the man to eventually get over the line amidst a Dragons scramble in defence.

We’re not sure on the official statistics, but Catalans definitely conceded more penalties than the Cherry and Whites over the course of the 80 minutes.

Tomkins bows out a legend

A legend at both clubs, and of the game itself, Catalans ace Sam Tomkins may not have got the perfect ending to his illustrious career having ended up on the losing side, but the stalwart can bow out with his head held high.

Having been very close to calling time earlier in the year, he came up with the clutch play to get the Dragons to Old Trafford for a second time with the winning try late on in their semi-final against St Helens last week.

The full-back won three Grand Finals during his time playing for Wigan, so while we know the defeat tonight will have hurt him, there’s probably no other club he’d rather have lost out to.

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