It was second against fourth as Warrington Wolves travelled to the Wigan Warriors on Friday night as both teams fought for a home semi-final and Wigan still quietly hoping for the League Leaders Shield.
Wigan welcomed back Dom Manfredi to the starting team after nearly two years away, and he showed us exactly what we’d been missing.
The opening 15 minutes of the game were both scoreless and entertaining the sides looked to their kicking game in order for good territory.
With handling errors creeping in to both sides, neither side wanted to counter attack and just took the scrums as they seemed to prepare for the rainier conditions expected over the next month.
A penalty to Warrington came after 21 minutes for interference at the play the ball and it gave the Wolves the chance to attack from 30 metres out. A first tackle kick from Stefan Ratchford forced a goal-line drop-out as Sam Tomkins shepherded the ball out of play.
This set meant that Warrington could cross the line first but Bodene Thompson was help-up by former New Zealand Warriors teammate Tomkins. Wigan held out for the rest of the set.
Shortly afterwards John Bateman and Thompson squared up to each other after excessive contact in the tackle from the Warrington second-row and Robert Hicks awarded the Warriors the penalty.
The Wolves were the next side to be awarded a penalty after Sam Powell interfered at the ruck. This penalty led to Warrington crossing the line once more and Stefan Ratchford collected a Dec Patton kick and slid over the line. However, the full-back lost control of the ball before the line and failed to regather for Warringtons second no-try decision of the night. It was still 0-0 after 27 minutes in this extremely tight affair.
Wigan then forced a goal-line drop out of their own as Ratchford was caught in goal by Dan Sarginson and company. The Warriors then attacked the Wolves line with purpose and more interference at the ruck from Warrington gave Wigan a fresh set just five metres out. However, a Sam Powell pass drifted forward and the attack ended promptly.
Ryan Sutton conceded a penalty on 35 minutes which, once again, allowed Warrington to set up 30 metres out. However, it came to nothing a Wigan went up the other end to attack the Wigan line.
It was Thomas Leuluai who crossed the line for Wigan as a wonderful worked team move, meant that John Bateman could kick through twice delicately and the New Zealander beat Ratchford to the ball and managed to get a fingertip to the ball for the Warriors to break the deadlock after 38 minutes. Sam Tomkins converted to make it 6-0.
The last play of the half fell to Wigan as Tomkins went for a drop-goal. However it drifted right and the half-time hooter went.
Half-Time: Wigan Warriors 6-0 Warrington Wolves
Once again the tight affair continued into the second half and it was an even game too with both teams forcing one another into goal-line drop outs in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Sam Tomkins was adamant with Robert Hicks that a scrum awarded to Warrington should have gone Wigan’s way, but his words to Hicks were too much for the referee and the full-back was rightfully sent to the sin bin.
This opened the game up, as big hits starting flying in from Wigan to make up for the one man shortage. The man advantage paid off the the Wolves however, as a reversed dabbed kick through from Dec Patton was grounded by Ratchford to bring the scored to 6-6 after Patton added the extras.
With the game now level, both teams looked for anyway to take a lead. A Ben Westwood penalty right in front of the Warrington posts gave Wigan that chance and George Williams slotted the penalty to make it a two-point lead after an hour played.
The physicality from both sides didn’t drop as sides started to tire. However, the action flared up as Tom Lineham hit Dom Manfredi with a swinging arm into the side of the head recklessly. This lead to both sides running in on top of each other and starting pushing an pulling each other around.
Hicks then showed Lineham a yellow card, and gave Wigan a penalty just 20 metres away from the Warrington line. The attack come to nothing as Ryan Atkins was strong enough to keep the ball in the field of play as he was pressured by three Warriors defenders.
Not long afterwards, Morgan Escare and Oliver Gildart broke down the right hand edge and put Wigan on the front foot. This meant that Dom Manfredi could collect the ball at first receiver, run through the dogged Warrington defence and dive over the line for a well deserved try on his comeback.
Tomkins added the extras to make it 14-6 to Wigan after 72 minutes.
Just a minute later the ball was over the line again as Wigan stepped up the intensity. Once again it was Dom Manfredi as he managed to pick up a loose pass from John Bateman and powered over the top of the complaining Harvey Livett and Jack Hughes, who believed there had been a knock one, from close range to score his second in three minutes.
Tomkins converted once more to make it 20-6 with less than five minutes remaining.
Once again, George Williams broke down the left hand edge and Wigan were in the ascendancy in the last 10 minutes. This break allowed the Warriors to be on the front foot and Ryan Sutton run over the top of the tired Warrington defenders to extend the Wigan lead once more. Another conversion from Tomkins make it 26-6.
That wasn’t the end of the action on the night as Sam Tomkins picked up his own kick through, popped the ball to Sam Powell, and Ryan Atkins and Josh Charnley couldn’t deal with the loose ball. However Sarginson was deemed to have knocked the ball on in the in-goal area and Warrington were saved from further embarrassment.
The scoreline didn’t represent the true slow of the game but despite the victory Wigan could no longer win the League Leaders Shield though, as a 38-12 victory for St Helens against Hull FC was enough to secure top-spot at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
Full-Time: Wigan Warriors 26-6 Warrington Wolves
Sky Man of the Match: John Bateman – The Wigan centre did well to set up Thomas Leuluai for the first try of the night and was the man who set up Dom Manfredi for his second try of the night. Bateman was also a menace is both attack and defence and handle Bodene Thompson throughout the entire 80 minutes.
My Man of the Match: Dom Manfredi – The Wigan winger was back into the side for the first time in two years and worked tirelessly throughout in both attack and defence and thoroughly deserved his two tries.
Tomkins, Manfredi, Gildart, Sarginson, Davies, Williams, Leuluai, Clubb, Powell, Navarrete, Bateman, Isa, Hamlin.
Subs: Escare, Sutton, Tautai, Partington.
Tries: Manfredi (2), Sutton, Leuluai
Goals: Tomkins (4/4) Williams (1/1)
Ratchford, Lineham, Goodwin, Atkins, Charnley, Livett, Patton, G. King, Clark, Westwood, Thompson, T. King, Hughes.
Subs: Philbin, Smith, Pomeroy, Johnson.
Goals: Patton (1/1)
Featured Image: @WiganWarriorsRL