Tomkins joy at ending ‘tough’ time out

Sam Tomkins returned on the same ground where he played his last game
Sam Tomkins returned on the same ground where he played his last game

Sam Tomkins was “as surprised as anyone” he hit a drop-goal which ultimately sent Wigan to within 80 minutes of Wembley.

The former Man of Steel crowned his successful return to action – after nine months out because of a broken foot – with a decisive one-pointer.

The reward for Saturday’s thrilling 27-26 victory was a semi-final against Salford. Hull FC play Leeds in the other semi at the end of next month.

Full-back Tomkins said: “I’ve not kicked a drop-goal since August last year, so I was surprised as anyone when it went over.”

His drop-goal put Wigan 27-20 up, but Warrington rallied and were given the chance to take the lead when Joe Burgess’ restarting kick sailed out on the full - giving Stefan Ratchford a late penalty which swung wide.

Even that wasn’t the end of the drama, as the Wolves bombarded Wigan’s line and, in the final play, Dec Patton was off-target with a drop-goal attempt.

Asked what he was feeling at that stage, Tomkins said: “I was relieved. I was just about to go and batter Joe Burgess!

“We made too many errors and penalties, I felt we got a rough deal on some - balls spilling out - but some go for you and some don’t.

“I felt we were good for the win, I felt we were the best side.”

John Bateman also returned in his first game since February, and Tomkins praised the work of head of performance Mark Bitcon in getting them ready.

The joy of his return contrasted sharply with the emotions during his spell on the sidelines, which saw his comeback pushed back from April to June because of further surgery.

“It’s tough, it’s not a nice place to be,” he said.

“The first few months are the toughest. We don’t play rugby for money, we do it because we love it. It’s not a job.

“And to see the boys struggle, and feel ‘I could be helping them’... but it’s what we sign up for, and injuries are inevitable.

“The last two or three weeks have been brilliant, running outside and training with the boys.

“I felt rusty at times and I made a bad error - I dropped a kick – but I didn’t feel too bad.”

Wigan are now just 80 minutes away from Wembley and Tomkins said: “We’re synonymous with this competition. We’re a club which should be at Wembley.”

Wigan now switch their attention back to Super League, with Friday’s trip to Huddersfield shaping as a crucial clash if they are to climb the ladder – and avoid being dragged into a battle to avoid a bottom-four spot when the season splits for the Super-8s.

Huddersfield’s victory against St Helens last Friday saw them nudge Wigan down to eighth in the table. “We’re not as high as we’d like, that’s for certain,” added Tomkins.