Thursday, 9 October 2014

Derby Duo Setup Old Trafford Clash

After what has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable Super League seasons of all time, the final chase for Old Trafford saw the excitement continue but the unpredictability end as both favourites secured their place at the season-ending showpiece.

Saints Extinguish Fiery Dragons

St Helens will grace Old Trafford for the first time since 2011 after they cruised to a 30-12 win at home to a Catalan Dragons side that just fell one game short of a perfect end to the season.

The hosts could have gone ahead inside nine minutes when they elected to kick for goal from a well positioned penalty but Mark Percival's effort missed the target keeping the score at 0-0. Catalan used the near-miss as wake-up call which proved effective as Morgan Escare crossed for a try in the 22nd minute which was awarded prior to a video review and Thomas Bosc converted for a 6-0 lead.

St Helens looked to have made a rapid response as Jordan Turner crossed for a try and after a video review saw the try awarded, Mark Percival converted to level the score at 6-6 before the Saints took the lead with just two minutes left of the first half as Adam Swift dashed through the Dragons defence for a try which was eventually given after a video review with Mark Percival's conversion ensuring a 12-6 lead at the interval.

Catalan fell further behind just seven minutes into the second half as Willie Manu crossed for a try which Mark Percival converted for 18-6 and meant Catalan would need to score next to have any hopes of reaching a first Grand Final.

However, St Helens were awarded a penalty in the 55th minute and wary of a potential Dragons fight back they elected to go for goal with Mark Percival successfully opening up a 20-6 lead before two tries in the space of four minutes for the Saints all but wrapped up the win.

Mose Masoe powered over for a try on the hour before Mark Percival converted and then ran in for a try of his own before failing to convert his own try at 30-6. Catalan responded in the 68th minute with a try from Micheal Oldfield with Thomas Bosc converting for 30-12.

The Dragons battled for a third try but were denied by a resolute Saints defence thus ending the Dragons superb play-off run and confirming St Helens participation in the Grand Final.
Destination Old Trafford for Wigan

After watching St Helens seal their place in the Grand Final the previous evening, Wigan and Warrington faced off knowing only one of them would have the chance to grace Old Trafford on October 11th.

Both sides made a good start in completing their opening sets but after a superb run from Matt Bowen, Wigan were awarded a penalty in a great position and elected to kick at goal with Matty Smith successful in the sixth minute to give the Warriors a 2-0 lead.

Wigan could have extended the lead in the 12th minute when a clever high kick from Blake Green came achingly close to finding Joe Burgess out on the wing for a try but just seconds later Wigan did cross for a try, or so they thought as Liam Farrell looked to have scored under pressure. However, the try was chalked off after a video review as the Wigan forward had been held-up.

Warrington came close to scoring after they sent a dangerous kick into the Wigan in-goal area but to no avail and from the next set, Wigan increased their lead as a stellar run from Blake Green saw him offload to Joel Tomkins who powered over the line for a try with Matty Smith adding a successful conversion for 8-0.

Wigan defended well to stop Warrington from reducing the deficit as Rhys Evans was tackled into touch just metres from the Wigan line on the half hour mark with the Wolves changing their setup as Chris Bridge went off injured with fullback Matty Russell entering in his place.

Warrington did reduce the deficit with just four minutes left of the first 40 as a lucky bounce off the head of Ben Currie saw the Wolves force a goal-line dropout which resulted in a fine passing play that saw Joel Monaghan touch down for a try with Stefan Ratchford unable to convert at 8-4.

Wigan looked to have regained their eight point lead in the final seconds of the first half as a forward pass from Matty Russell saw Wigan take possession and a clever kick forward saw Josh Charnley collect before crossing for a try which was chalked off after a video review.

Recent meetings between the sides had seen a Warrington/Wigan split across the halves so with Wigan having lit up the first 40, it was no surprise that Warrington started the second half the better. A clever high kick from Gareth O'Brien fooled Matt Bowen who allowed the ball to bounce and saw O'Brien collect to cross for an easy try which the Warrington man converted for 10-8.

Wigan regained the lead in the 54th minute as a superb passing set saw the ball reach Anthony Gelling on the right side with the Wigan centre racing towards the Warrington line before crossing for a try in front of a joyous South Stand but a failure to convert from Matty Smith left the score at 12-10.

However, Warrington levelled in the 65th minute as Stefan Ratchford elected to kick for goal from a well positioned penalty and did so successfully for 12-12 to set up a tense last 15 minutes which began with Matty Smith missing with a drop goal attempt as Wigan looked to edge ahead.

Warrington threatened the Wigan defence in the 72nd minute but a misjudged move saw them penalised for crossing as Wigan breathed a sigh of relief with the Warriors attempting another drop goal via Matty Smith from the next set but sadly he missed to leave the tie at 12-12 with six minutes remaining.

Sam Powell's knock-on gave Warrington great field position and on the last drive, Richie Myler attempted a drop goal only to see it head horribly wide of the posts. Wigan utilised the next set to threaten the Warrington defence as a dash from Anthony Gelling out them in a great position which resulted in a pass out wide to Dan Sarginson who crossed for a try.

The try was chalked off after a video review as the game entered the final minutes and in true play-off fashion, Wigan secured the victory in the final minute as a superb pass out wide from Sean O'Loughlin found Joe Burgess who battled over the line to a raucous celebration from the home crowd whose joy was not dampened by the resulting missed conversion from Matt Bowen with 45 seconds remaining.

Warrington took a short kick-off but were unable to fashion an end product in the final seconds as Wigan celebrated a superbly hard-fought victory that sends them to Old Trafford for the third time in five seasons and puts them just one win away from retaining their Super League crown.