Warrington 25 Wigan 12

There was a bit of 'bad blood', as advertised, and a Wire victory, as widely-predicted.

Friday, 15th March 2019, 9:03 pm
Updated Friday, 15th March 2019, 10:08 pm
Morgan Escar

But Wigan fans at least saw some of the fighting spirit which had been desperately lacking in their previous three successive Super League defeats.

They finished strong, with converted tries from Willie Isa and Tom Davies cutting an 18-0 scoreline to 18-12 - while Blake Austin was off the pitch - and briefly raising hopes of a comeback.

But they didn't have the enterprise or composure to kick-on and with two minutes to go, Jack Hughes crossed for 11-man Warrington to give Wire a victory they certainly deserved from a game which didn't lack for drama.

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The Warriors exhibited energy in the first quarter and effort throughout. But Warrington showed them where they need to reach in the vital twin fundamentals - discipline and ball-control - as well as the creativity of their attacks and the crispness in which they were executed.

Lam made five changes to the side which lost 14-6 to Huddersfield a week ago.

Ben Flower (back), Liam Marshall (knee) and Dom Manfredi (teeth) dropped out through injury alongside Chris Hankinson and suspended Taulima Tautai.

In their place returned fit-again Dan Sarginson and Joe Greenwood and recalled Tom Davies. In addition, Jake Shorrocks played his first game in more than two years - as bench-hooker - and Oliver Partington found himself in the unusual position of playing despite being banned the day before, due to a quirk in the rules!

Warrington, who had won four of their opening five Super League matches, replaced injured Bryson Goodwin with Ryan Atkins.

In the build-up, Tony Clubb said an emphasis had been on cutting the basic errors and, for a spell, it served Wigan well.

But those same sins seeped into their performance - a miss-kick here, a forward pass there - and with a 6-1 penalty count against them, the more composed Wolves were good value for their 12-0 lead at half-time.

From a Willie Isa spill, Wire were able to break the deadlock in the seventh minute when a neat Blake Austin pass sent Jake Mamo over in the corner.

There were elements of Wigan's game to admire - switching Leuluai to hooker gave them more balance - but again they lacked a cutting edge when they got into a good attacking position.

And for all the Warriors' endeavour, the hosts began to show their dominance in the last 10 minutes of the opening half.

Ben Currie was held-up by Zak Hardaker but four minutes later created their second try, showing the presence of mind to spot the excellent Stefan Ratchford racing at an angle for a try he converted to make it 10-0.

Wire could have powered further ahead, but ex-Warrior Jack Hughes had a try ruled out for a forward pass.

Wigan tried to counter, but Greenwood lost the ball in contact and though Oliver Gildart - restored to the left centre - tracked back Blake Austin, it ultimately provided the position for Ratchford to strike a penalty after back-to-back high tackles.

Wigan old-boy Josh Charnley's spill from the second-half restart gifted the visitors an early attacking chance, but that crumbled with a Williams forward pass.

And moments later, Austin's hanging kick slipped through the fingertips of make-shift winger Morgan Escare, and Charnley was on hand to touch down.

The hits kept coming thick and fast for Wigan. Sarginson spilled a first-tackle carry and was later sinbinned for a high tackle on Ryan Atkins - while Greenwood was placed on report for an off-the-ball challenge on Austin which saw their marquee man taken off.

Shorrocks came off the bench with 25 minutes to go - ending a two-year road back from a serious knee injury. And with the visitors showing signs of improving, he marked the occasion by setting up a try to ensure Wigan wouldn't suffer the indignity of being nilled.

He finished a left-to-right attack, while still down to 12-men, by dribbling a well-weighted kick through for Tom Davies to ground. The consistent Hardaker nailed the sideline conversion to make it 18-6.

O'Loughlin had been arguably Wigan's best player and yet, bucking the trend of recent years, his side improved without him.

Williams' crabbing run plucked the Wire line out of shape enough for Isa to stampede over, and with Hardaker taggling on the extras, suddenly there was a six-point gap.

Patton's drop-goal quickly restored a two-score lead, keeping the visitors at jabbing distance away, but with 13 minutes remaining Lam's side went looking for more points.

They didn't get them, but the game at least got the 'bad blood' it has promised, with a melee in the 74th minute resulting in Isa and Dec Patton being sinbinned, and Ben Westwood sent off.

And with the clock ticking down, Hughes made the game safe.

Another win for Lam's men but - with a long turnaround before their next game at Salford - at least something to build on.

Warrington: Ratchford; Mamo, King, Atkins, Charnley; Austin, Patton; Hill, Clark, Cooper, Currie, Hughes, Westwood. Subs: Murdoch-Masila, Tasi, Philbin, Clark.

Wigan: Hardaker; Davies, Sarginson, Gildart, Escare; Williams, Sammut; Clubb, Leuluai, Navarrete, Greenwood, Isa, O'Loughlin. Subs: Partington, Bullock, Hamlin, Shorrocks.

Referee: Ben Thaler

Half-time: 12-0

Attendance: 13,106

Warriors starman: Sean O'Loughlin