Warrington Wolves 26 Wigan Warriors 24

Wigan were dumped out of the Challenge Cup by Warrington for a second successive year after a thriller at the sun-kissed HJ Stadium.

Sunday, 12th May 2019, 5:19 pm
Warriors starman Thomas Leuluai can't hide his disappointment

The Warriors may look back on this and lament the late errors and decisions - they could easily have won.

But both sets of players deserved credit for full-throttled, full-blooded contest which went down to the wire.

Stefan Ratchford's late penalty ultimately split the sides, who scored four tries each.

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Wigan were also harshly denied an opener by video referee Robert Hicks, who later awarded Dan Sarginson a try amid calls of a double-movement.

The Warriors - 19 times winners of the Cup - went into the game on the back of three straight wins and though that run ended, they will take a lot of encouragement from this display as they turn their focus to the Nou Camp.

Thomas Leuluai was a dominant figure throughout but there were also strong displays from Zak Hardaker and evergreen skipper Sean O'Loughlin, while another ex-St Pat's junior - Ratchford - was superb for the hosts.

Wire had beaten Wigan on this ground 25-12 earlier in the season. Adrian Lam had promised a different performance from his team, and they delivered - only to fall just short.

Jake Shorrocks missed out with a shoulder injury but Sarginson, Joe Burgess and Tony Clubb all returned.

Warrington edged an entertaining, see-sawing first-half 18-12 but a major talking point at half-time was Hicks' decision to rule out a Sarginson try in the 12th minute after Leuluai's bone-jarring shot on Blake Austin forced the ball free.

Video official Hicks over-ruled referee James Child's on-field call of a 'try', spotting a knock-on in the tackle - much to the surprise of many.

Earlier, an error by Sarginson put the visitors' line under pressure and in the seventh minute, a crisp attack ended with makeshift winger Bryson Goodwin punishing a stretched Wigan defence.

Wigan levelled twice more before the break. First, a loose ball was hacked on by Leuluai for Sam Powell to score.

And Leuluai crossed himself from a determined charge, sandwiching a Jack Hughes try in the 27th minute.

Ben Murdoch-Masila added drive to Warrington's middle and on the back of that, Daryl Clark inflicted the damage, darting past a flapping Tualima Tautai and rounding Hardaker on his way to the line. Ratchford maintained his perfect record with the bot to make it 18-12.

Hardaker was also on target with his strikes, and a penalty early in the second-half closed the gap to four points - only for Ryan Atkins' try to swell the Wolves' lead to 24-14.

Wigan, though, battled back well and two tries in the space of five minutes set up a nail-biting finish.

Sarginson powered over, this time Hicks giving it the green-light after checking for a double movement, and then a bright attack finished with Hardaker plunging the ball down to lock the score.

But the full-back missed the conversion and 10 minutes later, his failure to find touch with a penalty let to Wire exerting a period of pressure on the line and Ratchford poking Wire 26-24 ahead.

Errors crept in as bodies tired and when Josh Charnley spilled a kick, it presented his old club the chance to go ahead - only for Romain Navarrete to release the pressure by knocking on the simplest of balls.

Wigan had another chance to win it but Burgess, in his 100th appearance for the club, couldn't take Gildart's pass under pressure - and the Warriors' Cup run was over.

Warrington: Ratchford; Goodwin, King, Atkins, Charnley; Austin, Patton; Hill, Clark, Cooper, Currie, Hughes, Davis. Subs: Clark, Murdoch-Masila, Philbin, Akauola.

Wigan: Hardaker; Marshall, Sarginson, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Leuluai; Flower, Powell, Navarrete, Isa, Greenwood, Clubb. Subs: Bullock, Hankinson, O'Loughlin, Tautai.

Referee: James Child

Half-time: 18-12

Attendance: 7,086

Warriors starman: Thomas Leuluai