Saturday, 28 September 2013

Wigan Reach Grand Final In Style

Warrington's narrow win over Huddersfield on Thursday meant the prospect of the long awaited 'Wire v Wigan' final was on the cards as Wigan played host to reigning champions Leeds at the DW.

Wigan looked to avenge the 13-12 defeat from the previous year while bidding farewells to Pat Richards, Lee Mossop, Chris Tuson and the mercurial Sam Tomkins. Leeds having come away from a tough 11-10 win over St Helens knew that Wigan at the DW would be different to the game they won earlier in the month.

Leeds kicked off to Wigan but it was the Rhinos who had the first scoring chance as a pass to Jones-Bishop on the wing saw him fly over for a try or so it would seem as Bentham went to the video referee who on review deemed that the ball had not been grounded and despite a 'NO TRY' it was an early wake up call for Wigan.

Wigan learnt from their early error after Leeds were penalised for offside and from the kick an amazing pass from Richards on the line saw Thornley dive over for the opening try to send the home fans wild and they continued as Richards sent over the conversion for a 6-0 lead.

Leeds had a great chance to score when Watkins picked out Jones-Bishop but strong defence from Wigan saw the winger tackled into touch, Liam Farrell made a break to Jack Hughes who was held short with the try line in sight and Hall broke free for Leeds but with a lack of support the move broke down.

Richards made a superb break after intercepting but was tackled by Kirke close to the 20 metre line, a try would have been a certainty in Richards' earlier career but his ageing legs allowed the defender to catch him.

As the interval came, a single score separated the sides meaning the next try would be important to the shape of the game. Leeds came to life within four minutes of the restart as a quick break by Ablett saw him racing clear of the Wigan defence but he chose to offload to the supporting Moon who went over for the try, Sinfield converted and the sides were level at 6 all.

Wigan were back in front in the 53rd minute as a run from Green saw him find Farrell who flew over the line for the try to the joy of the South Stand and seconds earlier I actually said it had been a while since he had scored, another textbook conversion from Richards saw Wigan lead 12-6.

The lead increased inside five minutes as a clever grubber kick by Matty Smith was fumbled by Ablett and Goulding was on hand to collect the ball and swoop over the line for a brilliant try, as Richards hit his third successive conversion surely the game was won for Wigan with a 18-6 lead.

Leeds thought otherwise as a superb pass from Burrow put Moon clear and certain to score with the Wigan defenders behind him but out of nowhere, Hansen caught him and forced him to knock on inches from the try line as Leeds looked for a way back into the game.

The desperation was clear minutes later with another mistake from Leeds as Hardaker dropped to give Wigan back possession after Wigan had been forced dropout from in goal, time ticked on into the final ten minutes and Smith attempted a drop goal but was blocked as Leeds gained possession.

The result was all but sealed with eight minutes remaining as a dash from Smith to maybe try another drop goal attempt saw him pick out Goulding who hit a pinpoint pass to Charnley who raced over for the try, his 42nd of the season but Richards missed the conversion to give Leeds a glimmer of hope at 22-6.

Leeds hit a short kick-off but Wigan claimed the ball and received a penalty after Bailey held on too long when tackling Tomkins and Wigan elected to kick for goal but a narrow miss from Richards kept the score at 22-6, Leeds went in for their second try in the 77th minute scored by Sutcliffe but even though Sinfield converted they were still 10 points behind at 22-12.

As the final seconds counted down the Wigan fans began to celebrate with the full time hooter causing a roar from the home fans and ecstatic euphoria as Wigan avenged their 2012 exit and reached their first Grand Final in three years since 2010, the year that Leeds last failed to reach the showpiece event having lost out to Wigan in similar circumstances.

An amazing game and an electric atmosphere were a perfect way for the four departing Warriors to bid farewells to the faithful DW crowd but with a Grand Final clash against Warrington next Saturday they can go out with a bang and on a personal level after two consecutive Grand Final attendances without Wigan, it will be delightful to be there to see them for a second time in four years.