Published in League Express in 2010
WARRINGTON WOLVES 20
WIGAN WARRIORS 22
The Halliwell Jones Stadium
WHAT a game!
A last-minute video-referee decision ultimately decided this magnificent game of Rugby League between two teams who have been widely tipped to break open the Leeds-St Helens stranglehold on Super League.
Whether either club does that remains to be seen, but the 34 players on display at the Halliwell Jones on Saturday night produced a wonderful spectacle that deserves to be remembered as one of the great Super League contests in its 14-and-a-bit-year history.
That late decision involved David Solomona who, with a minute left, was adjudged to have lost control of the ball in the act of scoring what would have been the winning try. Even after a couple of replays, the Wolves’ fans were jubilant, but the ‘No Try’ verdict which Phil Bentham delivered was spot on.
“He’s distraught in there, saying sorry to all his team-mates,” revealed Warrington’s coach, Tony Smith. “But it’s not all down to him and he’ll score plenty this year.
“It’s fine-line stuff sometimes, we were within a centimetre or two of snatching the victory. It’s not just down to one thing, we had a few opportunities. In the second half we didn’t perform the way we wanted to. We went a bit flat and allowed our opposition to get back into it.”
Smith’s men made the better start and forced Wigan to defend 18 consecutive tackles by forcing a couple of goal-line drop-outs. Lee Briers had obviously brought his kicking boots and was in the mood to ask Wigan questions all night on the last tackle.
Having defended their line so stoutly, Wigan broke away and stand-in fullback, Amos Roberts, posted a superb individual try. He broke through Ben Harrison’s tackle on the halfway line after taking Andy Coley’s pass, used Sam Tomkins as a foil, stepped past Matt King and arced away to the corner for a glorious score.
In truth, that score had come against the run of play and nine minutes later Warrington made their territorial advantage count as Michael Monaghan probed from dummy-half close to Wigan’s line and found Richie Myler, whose eye for the gap was as sharp as ever. Briers tagged on the goal to edge his side ahead by a couple of points.
They extended that lead in the 28th minute following a penalty which piggy-backed them downfield. With the Wigan defence stretched, Warrington moved the ball from left to right with a speed and crispness that saw them score in the corner courtesy of the prolific Chris Riley. In a flowing move, Bridge’s final pass to Riley, in particular, was a beauty.
Wigan countered immediately, aided by two penalties, but the home fans’ roar when the Warriors’ attack came to nothing was deafening. Warrington were well on top, and looked to have scored again, but Monaghan’s try was turned down by the video referee as he knocked on in trying to touch down Briers’ grubber.
They didn’t have too long to wait for the next try, though. The superb Solomona crashed over from Myler’s pass close to the line and the stand-off’s second conversion opened up a well-deserved 12-point buffer. They left the field at half-time to a standing ovation.
But Wigan’s coach, Michael Maguire, was confident his side to come back. “I told them at half-time to go back to what we’ve been practising and they did that.” He made it sound simple – it was anything but that.
They almost endured a nightmare start, however. Lee Mossop, otherwise so impressive this season, lost the ball straight from the kick off as he was smashed by Solomona and Simon Grix. On Warrington’s last tackle, Briers kicked for the former Bradford and Wakefield forward and touched down himself as the ball ricocheted back his way, but the try was ruled out by video ref Bentham who spotted a knock on from Solomona.
But that was Briers’ last significant contribution injury as he injured his left ankle with around half an hour still to play and had to be helped from the field, and within a couple of minutes the home side received a further blow when Wigan began their fightback with another try from the excellent Roberts, awarded by Bentham who judged that Martin Gleeson hadn’t impeded King. With Warrington’s talisman off the field, Wigan’s fans fancied their chances but Richards missed a very kickable goal and the deficit stayed at eight.
Before the Wolves touched the ball again, the Warriors had closed the gap further. A penalty gave them the field position to attack and Roberts’s jinking run foxed Warrington’s defence before he offloaded to the supporting Darrell Goulding who touched down. Richards’ touchline goal was a pearler and the gap was down to just two. Game on!
Wigan immediately broke downfield again with Carmont’s run but a relieved Warrington defence held out. But could it do so for another 19 minutes?
A cheap Wigan turnover and then a penalty gave them decent field position but they lacked Briers’s last-tackle direction and Wigan kept them out with relative ease. And the visitors were soon back on level terms as Richards potted an east penalty goal after Morley’s high tackle. Wigan were clearly on top and playing with a new-found vigour. The Wolves badly needed some inspiration.
But it was Wigan who immediately produced one of the plays of the night when Sam Tomkins, who had had a quiet game up to this point, chipped magnificently over the defence, regathered and freed Thomas Leuluai who sent Tomkins’ brother, Joel, to the line. Richards’ goal opened up a six-point gap in what was fast becoming the match of the season.
The Wolves re-introduced Solomona and badly needed one of his trademark pieces of skill to prise open a dominant Wigan side, but it was one of their other overseas stars, Monaghan, who kicked a 40-20. Sadly for them, the ball was lost on the first tackle by Bridge, although tryscorer Tomkins handed it straight back.
And how he was made to pay! Within moments, Louis Anderson crashed over from Richie Mathers’s pass to give stand-in kicker Chris Bridge the chance to level the scores ten metres from the touchline. The home fans cheered his seemingly goal-bound attempt but it faded agonisingly wide. Five left – Wigan still two in front.
Carmont saved Wigan’s bacon when he got a hand to Monaghan’s pass after the hooker had broke free, but after Sam Tomkins kicked weakly, Warrington were right back at them. And he kicked poorly again with just a couple of minutes left when his halfway-line kick went out on the full.
Warrington surged forward with the clock against them and on the last tackle Solomona appeared to have won the match as he crossed outwide. But after a couple of minutes’ deliberation, Bentham’s decision went against him. A relieved Tomkins clenched his fists in celebration.
There was still time for more! Adrian Morley hit Hansen with the mother of all bellringers and the former England Academy player did well to hold on to the ball. Wigan cleared, but Mathers and King set up one last attack. Monaghan’s kick, though, with seven seconds left on the clock, was too deep and was easily diffused by Richards.
Albert Goldthorpe points:
3pts Andy Coley Wigan
2pts Amos Roberts Wigan
1pt David Solomona Warrington
Story of the game
9 Amos Roberts try, Pat Richards missed goal (0/1) 0-4
18 Richie Myler try, Lee Briers goal (1/1) 6-4
28 Chris Riley try, Lee Briers missed goal (1/2) 10-4
35 Michael Monaghan try disallowed by VR
37 David Solomona try, Lee Briers goal (2/3) 16-4
42 Lee Briers try disallowed by VR
52 Lee Briers injury
56 Amos Roberts try, Pat Richards missed goal (0/2) 16-8
59 Darrell Goulding try, Pat Richards goal (1/3) 16-14
67 Pat Richards penalty goal (2/4) 16-16
68 Joel Tomkins try, Pat Richards goal (3/5) 16-22
73 Louis Anderson try, Chris Bridge missed goal (0/1) 20-22
79 David Solomona try disallowed by VR
1 Richie Mathers
2 Chris Riley
4 Chris Bridge
23 Ryan Atkins
3 Matt King
6 Lee Briers
7 Richie Myler
8 Adrian Morley
9 Michael Monaghan
10 Garreth Carvell
11 Louis Anderson
12 Ben Westwood
13 Ben Harrison
Subs (all used)
14 Mickey Higham
16 Paul Wood
17 Simon Grix
26 David Solomona
2 Amos Roberts
24 Darrell Goulding
3 Martin Gleeson
4 George Carmont
5 Pat Richards
6 Sam Tomkins
19 Paul Deacon
8 Stuart Fielden
7 Thomas Leuluai
15 Andy Coley
16 Harrison Hansen
14 Joel Tomkins
13 Sean O’Loughlin
Subs (all used)
14 Paul Prescott
16 Phil Bailey
17 Iafeta Paleaaesina
23 Lee Mossop
Penalty count: 10-9
GLDO forced: 2-0
Referee: Richard Silverwood
GAMEBREAKER: Paul Deacon replacing Thomas Leuluai at dummy-half transformed the Wigan attack.
GAMESTAR: Andy Coley, who captained Wigan for the first time, was immense up front.
TOP TACKLE: Adrian Morley’s monster hit on Harrison Hansen in the last minute was the sort of tackle he’s built a great career on.
Rugby Leaguer & League Express Men of the Match
Wolves: David Solomona
Warriors: Andy Coley