Wigan will return to the Super League Grand Final on October 11th to face St Helens, after defeating Warrington Wolves 16-12 in a gripping semi final contest at the DW Stadium on Friday. They required all of their Warriors' spirit to rest the game away from Warrington in a breathless conclusion that could have gone either way, but was decided by Joe Burgess' try with only two minutes left to go as the prospect of extra-time loomed.
Wigan looked to be in complete control for much of the first half but the scoreboard was closer than it should have been at half time, thanks to some determined defending by their opponents. They took the lead through a penalty goal in the 8th minute through their ever reliable kicker Matty Smith. Both Michael McIlorum and Liam Farrell were denied tries for the Warriors by last gasp tackles as the siege on the Warrington line gained strength, but their resistance was broken in the 24th minute. Wigan captain, Sean O'Loughlin put Blake Green through a hole and Joel Tomkins was on hand to finish the move off under the posts. Smith added the points to leave his team 8-0 to the good.
Indecision played a big hand in allowing the Wolves back into the match before half time. Following sloppy defending by Wigan, they were forced into taking a drop out from under their own posts to ensure the pressure on their line would continue with a further set of six (tackles) for Warrington. With time running out before the half time hooter, the ball was lost by Wigan and as it rolled into the in goal area it was Warrington winger Joel Monaghan who reacted quickest to steal the try. Although the conversion was missed, it provided a foothold for the underdogs at 8-4 going into the second period.
They came out the stronger after the break as Wigan's indiscipline began to tilt the game their way, and Gareth O'Brien put them firmly back in the game when he went over for a try 5 minutes in after recovering his own kick. The conversion put them into a 10-8 lead.
Wigan responded with Burgess becoming more influential on the match, as he began to find gaps in the defence, and he was part of a flowing move that resulted in a try for Anthony Gelling on 53 minutes that went unconverted. 12-10 to Wigan but the game was still far from over and there was yet more drama to come.
As mistakes began to creep in during an edgy final quarter, Warrington tied the scores at 12-12 thanks to a Stefan Ratchford penalty as Farrell held his man down too long in trying to give his defence a breather.
After both sides had attempted to edge ahead through a succession of missed drop goal attempts, it had seemed that the result was decided three minutes from the end as Dan Sarginson looked to have gone over for a try for the home team. The officials decided that there had been a forward pass in the build up and ruled it out. Wigan were not to be denied though and fittingly it was Burgess who popped on to an O'Loughlin pass to get the decisive try a minute later. #RugbyTheir opponents in the final, St Helens, will be in their first Grand Final since 2011 having reached the last two every year from 2006 until then and on normal season form may just have the edge. Wigan will be no pushovers though and the reigning Super League Champions will be keen to retain that honour for another season. It promises to be some match next Saturday at the appropriately titled "Theatre of Dreams" that is Old Trafford.