SEAN O’Loughlin admits Wigan owed as much to their incredible defence as they did to their match-winning attacking stars after booking a first Wembley appearance in 13 years.
The Warriors saw off a determined effort from arch-rivals St Helens on Saturday to set up a mouth-watering Challenge Cup final against Leeds on August 27.
Tries from George Carmont, Josh Charnley and Sam Tomkins were too much for Saints, for whom Jamie Foster replied with a late brace.
But the groundwork for Wigan’s victory was set in the first half, when the cherry and whites withstood an almost-constant barrage from the Saints without buckling.
“We’ve confidence in our defence,” said skipper O’Loughlin, the only man to have played in a Challenge Cup final for the club.
“We train hard and we work on our structures in defence.
“We know, if we stick to them, it’s hard to break us down. We love scoring tries but it’s on the back of defending well.
“You’ve got to have players who enjoy that part of the game as much as scoring tries.”
And O’Loughlin – the brother-in-law of Andy Farrell, the last man to lift the trophy for the Warriors back in 2002 – admits he can’t wait to lead out his home-town club at Wembley.
“A lot of Wigan’s history is about winning Challenge Cups and it’s great to get the opportunity to go back there,” he added.
Sam Tomkins was at the heart of the Warriors’ defensive heroics, twice taking spiralling kicks from Leon Pryce, before demonstrating his attacking skills after the break.
He had one try disallowed for an obstruction, but Wigan quickly bounced back to score twice in five minutes and open up a decisive 16-point lead.
“I think we responded well to that,” said Tomkins. “Calls like that can change a game sometimes. We really dug in after that.”
Leeds pipped Castleford in the other semi-final at Doncaster yesterday, with Kevin Sinfield’s golden-point winner sealing a 10-8 victory for the Rhinos.