Warriors edge Challenge Cup Dress Rehearsal


Wigan Warriors closed the gap on league leader St Helens to just points difference after claiming a 19-18 victory against Warrington Wolves on Saturday.

Tries from Junior Nsemba, Liam Marshall and Kruise Leeming along with a drop goal from Harry Smith proved the difference as the Cherry and Whites edged the contest in what will be repeated in next week’s Challenge Cup final at Wembley next week.

Following St Helens’ crunch victory over Catalans on Friday night, the win for Wigan means the rivals are still neck and neck in the race for the league leaders shield.

With both teams making changes but Wire certainly the side focussing more on next week, it didn’t take long for Wigan to hack into the inexperienced side.

Connor Wrench made a hash of a simple catch which led to Liam Marshall flying over in the corner after just three minutes, only to be disallowed by the video referee for going into touch on this occasion.

But Wigan failed to build on the early pressure as the home side grew in confidence and got their opening points on the board as Stefan Ratchford scored a penalty kick before Aaron Lindop went over to extend the Wire’s lead to six.

Things went from bad to worse for the Champions as Josh Drinkwater put the Wolves even further ahead with a try under the sticks giving Matty Peet’s side a tough start to come back from with just a quarter of the contest gone.

But with 23 minutes gone, Wigan – in true champion style – began that climb with Junior Nsmeba piling over to half the deficit at the Halliwell Jones.

And ten minutes later, they were back on level terms with Liam Marshall producing an unbelievable, acrobatic finish in the corner which the officials were content with this time around.

As the first half drew to a close, it had been a quiet period for Wigan’s star man Bevan French, but he rapidly changed that with a deadly turn of pace, skipping past the Wire defence before setting up Kruise Leeming to score and put the cherry and whites in front for the first time of afternoon.

The second period got off to a manic start with a couple of almost certain tries going begging at both ends. First, Ryan Hampshire went close with what seemed like a simple finish after an inch-perfect kick from Marshall, but the full back just couldn’t claim the ball under control.

And as the Halliwell Jones crowd  recovered, Wire broke and looked to be in themselves as Wrench went over in the corner, only to be denied by the video referee for going into touch with the intial on-field decision being no try.

With ten left to play and the game appearing to slip away from the Wolves, Adam Keighran was shown a straight red card by referee Jack Smith for a high tackle following a couple of previous close calls from the former Catalans man.

Looking to make the extra man count, two minutes remained and Warrington set the tie up for a tantalising finish as Ratchford followed up on a Drinkwater kick and stole in front of Harry Smith to put the Wolves within a point of Wigan with Harry Smith’s last minute drop goal in the first half currently proving the difference.

But time just ran out for Sam Burgess’ men who put up a very spirited performance which will stand them in good stead as they prepare to march down Wembley Way in just seven days time.

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