WIGAN’S 13-game unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt - and with it their hopes of finishing the campaign on top of the ladder were left hanging by a thread.
Michael Maguire’s charges must now beat Crusaders this Friday and keep their fingers crossed that Hull FC can, somehow, turnover the free-scoring Wolves at the same time. Hull FC, though, are already guaranteed a play-off spot after destroying Castleford last Friday, and Wigan may head into the play-offs in second position.
Only the players will know how much the euphoria of their Cup success contributed to their lacklustre performance at Warrington.
While there was no shortage of effort, they rarely had the same attacking sharpness and creativity that their hosts exhibited in abundance.
The champions’ performance was littered with uncharacteristic handling mistakes and tarnished by indiscipline, and on the two occasions they managed to build some real pressure, they crossed for tries through Paul Deacon and Sean O’Loughlin.
In contrast, Warrington dominated territorially and enjoyed a lavish amount of ball, running in six tries in total - Chris Bridge’s impeccable kicking display only rubbed salt into the proverbial wounds.
The sorry result completed a Super League double defeat by Wolves – only the second suffered by Wigan this year, after two losses to Catalan.
Maguire made just one change to the Cup-winning side, replacing Lee Mossop (shoulder) with Gareth Hock, but it was the return of another Test front-rower who generated the most pre-match discussion – Adrian Morley was back in the Wolves side after a 10-week lay-off with an eye injury.
Wolves opened the scoring in the 10th minute when Matt King leapt to collect Lee Briers’ crossfield kick, video referee Steve Ganson awarding the touchdown after being satisfied that the Australian didn’t shove Josh Charnley off the ball. Bridge nailed the first of his seven successive conversions.
And from the next set, the Wolves doubled their advantage in fortuitous circumstances. Lee Briers angled a grubber, and the ball ricocheted off Leuluai and back into the stand-off’s hands to make it 12-0.
Wigan looked rattled, and for all their endeavour just couldn’t work their way into their opponents’ half. Silverwood’s decision to rule Ryan Hoffman had knocked on King’s fumble – denying Pat Richard a certain try – proved costly as, from the next set, Richie Myler dismantled Wigan’s right side defence for Michael Monaghan to cross.
Warrington rarely had to work to get out of their own half; penalties piggybacked them down field time and again, handing them the lion’s share of possession and the better position. What scraps the visitors got, they had deep in their own half, with genuine try-scoring chances few and far between.
Hock’s introduction from the bench sparked them into life momentarily, with a thunderous charge and off-load to Leuluai finding Sam Tomkins in space. The No.1 arced towards the corner but his pass to brother Joel only found the touchline.
To compound their misery, hooker Monaghan punished Harrison Hansen’s loose carry, scooping up the ball to race over unopposed in the 23rd minute to make it 24-0.
Wigan finally got a foothold in the match when Deacon attacked the Wolves and stepped past, or powered beyond, four defenders to score a fine solo try. Richards’ conversion reduced the score to 24-6.
Monaghan booted a drop goal before the break to edge a point ahead.
Wigan improved at the start of the second-half and with better finishing, may have troubled the scoreboard, as Sam Tomkins and Brett Finch tried their best to conjure a try, with no success. One-time Warrior Jon Clarke broke Wigan’s second-half resistance by burrowing over from dummy-half. That triggered an in-goal flare up, when Briers reacted to Sam Tomkins’ attempt to use his feet to prevent the hooker grounding the ball by diving on top of the No.1. Bodies raced in to pull the pair apart, before Bridge hit the conversion to make it 31-6.
Wigan showed their battling qualities when Sean O’Loughlin touched down Finch’s grubber, following a breakaway touchdown by Joel Monaghan. But after another bust-up started when Hock appeared to gouge Ben Harrison, Bridge put the gloss on Wolves’ win with a last minute penalty.