Warrington Wolves produced another impressive performance in both attack and defence to put league leaders Wigan to the sword by 30 points to 10 to go one point behind the Warriors with three rounds of the regular season still remaining.
In similar fashion to their dominant win at St Helens last Monday, the Wolves once again comprehensively dominated their opponents from the outset. A loose pass from Brett Finch in the first two minutes was picked up by Lee Briers for the Wolves stand-off to break towards the Wigan line. George Carmont held Briers up short but from the play-the-ball the ball was fed to Ben Westwood for the powerhouse second-rower, currently enjoying a rich vein of form, to go over for the opening score. Brett Hodgson’s goal giving the Wolves an early 6-0 lead.
With the Warrington forwards continually putting the home side on the front foot, the Wolves applied more pressure on the Wigan line and after gaining a couple of repeat sets near the Wigan line, Chris Hill charged on to a Richie Myler flick back through the gap before passing inside to Ben Harrison for the Wolves’ second.
Wigan’s error count continued to mount, as the Warrington defence forced the Warriors into mistakes. Gareth Hock’s forced offload almost led to another score as the Wolves were given position, only for Joel Monaghan to put down Stefan Ratchford’s low flick pass after the ball was moved wide. Warrington were then denied by the video referee after Chris Riley ghosted in, as Ryan Atkins was adjudged to have knocked the ball on in a tackle on Harrison Hansen, which led to Riley’s clear run.
Wigan continued to make mistakes as they lacked fluency in attack with the halves Finch and Matty Smith not combining. However, the visitors were getting themselves back into the match enjoying more of the ball in the Warrington half. After Westwood threw an offload to the Wigan players, under heavy pressure Wigan were awarded a penalty on th Wolves ine for offside. Gareth Hock took the quick tap and shrugged off Westwood to score to pull wigan back in it at 12-6.
However, the Warriors’ brief respite ended immediately as Finck knocked on from the restart to give the Wolves a chance. And after another slick move, involving Myler and Briers before Hodgson’s long cut out pass found Monaghan in the corner, Warrington were 16-6 up. Questions were raised over the possibility of Hodgson’s pass being forward but the replays showed that the ball was passed backwards from the fullback’s hands, with the player’s momentum making the ball travel forward in flight. Warrington contiued to press before halftime but the scores the same until the break.
Just after the restart Warrington stretched the lead to 12 with a Sean O’Loughlin grapple tackle being penalised as Wigan’s discipline continued to let them down. Warrington almost scored the first try of the half a minute later but in a fine move, but the final pass to Trent Waterhouse’s was forward. In an end-to-end frenetic opening to the half, Wigan were then denied a try. After an altercation between Westwood and Hock in what was a heated personal battle throughout the match between the aggressive second rowmen, Wigan spread the ball to the right but an excellent piece of defence from Riley saw opposite number Josh Charnley’s foot hit the touchline well before he had grounded the ball.
The match became increasingly hot-tempered between the top-of-the-table rivals as the half progressed. Warrington effectively put thr game to bed on 50 minutes after a chip kick from Matty Smith was claimed by Ratchford, who made the most of the clear space in front of him to race in from 80 minutes.
After yet another Warrington penalty Lee Briers’ miskick which failed to find touch was punished as Wigan spread the ball wide for Ian Thornley to score near the corner to reduce the gap to 24-10 with stand-in goalkicker Charnley’s missed conversion keeping the gap to three scores.
However, the well-beaten Warriors were never looked like producing a miraculous comeback and on the 68th minute Richie Myler’s try from Michael Monaghan’s shift from dummy half wrapped things up. Both sides trued to score right until the final hooter sounded to epitomise their positive attacking styles but it was a day which firmly belonged to the hosts who, just a fortnight before their Challenge Cup final date with Leeds, continue to look in menacing form heading towards the business end of the season.
Super League XVII Round Twenty-four results:
Bradford Bulls 32-26 Hull KR
Leeds Rhinos 68-24 Widnes Vikings
Salford City Reds 20-30 Huddersfield Giants
Warrington Wolves 30-10 Wigan Warriors
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 33-32 St Helens
Castleford Tigers 20-42 London Broncos
Hull FC 30-10 Catalans Dragons