Wigan Warriors 17 Warrington Wolves 17

Wigan celebrate Ben Flower's first-half try
Wigan celebrate Ben Flower's first-half try

LEE Briers booted a late drop-goal to deny Wigan victory in an absorbing, pulsating derby encounter.

The game was marketed as ‘awesome’ and it didn’t disappoint, as these two heavyweights went toe-to-toe over 80 frantic, fantastic minutes.

Matty Smith looked to have won the game for the home side when he slotted over a drop-goal in the 71st minute - only for Briers to drag the Wolves level six minutes later.

Earlier, a Liam Farrell try had cancelled out Richie Myler’s touchdown after the home side edged the opening half 12-10.

Shaun Wane’s outfit may have been disappointed not to claim the two points, but at least it broke a losing run against the Wolves in Super League which stretched back more than two years.

On this evidence, both sides will be in the mix for silverware at the back end of the season.

The Wolves claimed first blood in the ninth minute, capitalising on Josh Charnley’s handling mistake to earn a repeat set deep in Wigan’s territory, and Joel Monaghan squeezed in beyond Pat Richards in the corner. Brett Hodgson masterfully struck the sideline conversion to take a 6-0 lead.

But their lead was soon cut down, Wigan showing composure and Smith kicking smartly to build pressure on the Wolves’ line. McIlorum - looking to have far more zip than a year ago - probed for an opening, before the ball was spread to the right and Goulding’s neat pass sent Charnley racing over for his second try of the season.

Richards was unable to tag on the extras, but after an extended spell of pressure Ben Flower thundered over with his first touch of the ball, after Sean O’Loughlin and Farrell had kept the ball alive.

Monaghan grabbed his second, even if it appeared Charnley was tackled off the ball as he went to collect Briers’ lingering cross-field kick.

It was small comfort that Hodgson aimed his conversion wide, and just before the break Richards’ boot edged the home side into a 12-10 lead with a penalty in front of the sticks.

Yet just like in the first half, Warrington had the first say in the second. Myler, spotting a gap in the defence, turned on the afterburners and evaded Tomkins’ desperate clutches to scoot over for a try.

The Warriors recovered, and after profiting from a 50-50 call - when Goulding was ushered into touch, apparently after being called ‘held’ - countered in the 51st minute when halfbacks Smith and Green combined well to send Farrell charging over.

Simmering tensions only served to amp up the intensity even higher - and errors began to reappear, which added to the unpredictability of the spectacle.

It seemed then it was going to take an error, rather than an act of genius, to crack the game open - and so it proved when Hodgson failed to deal with Green’s clearing kick. From the repeat set, Smith slotted over a drop-goal.

But Wolves are made of stern stuff, and after working their way down field, Briers replied with a one-pointer of his own, aided and abetted by a fortunate bounce off the upright.

Wigan: S Tomkins; Charnley, Goulding, Thornley, Richards; Green, Smith; Dudson, McIlorum, Mossop, Hughes, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Subs: Flower, Taylor, Powell, Burke.

Warrington: Hodgson; Riley, Evans, Atkins, J Monaghan; Briers, Myler; Morley, M Monaghan, Hill, Waterhouse, Westwood, Grix. Subs: Carvell, Cooper, Higham, Ratchford.

Referee: Phil Bentham

Halt-time: 12-10

Attendance: 20,050

Starman: Mike McIlorum