THE body language of the Wolves players told you all you needed to know.

After Dec Patton’s drop-goal attempt had sailed wide, they slumped to the ground with heads in hands. There were even tears for some.

They were looks of players who had just seen their last realistic shot at silverware this season slip agonisingly from their grasp.

It was not through lack of trying either. The Wire boys really did give everything to the cause in a breathless 80 minutes.

Far removed from the recent insipid displays, you could tell this was a Warrington team playing for each other, their coach and their fans. The emotional post-match team huddle on the pitch showed as much.

And yet, it still was not enough.

With their patched-up team trailing 12-0 approaching half time against a Wigan side that was pretty much at full strength, it looked to be the same old story for the 2017 Wolves vintage.

Instead, two Ryan Atkins tries in quick succession had The Halliwell Jones Stadium bouncing again.

Their team may have trailed at the break, but the Wire fans had the sense this game was alive Wigan kept trying to keep them at arm’s length, but their hosts continued to roar back in a way they simply have not been doing for the most part this season.

It was far from a perfect display, the number of handling errors in hot and sweaty conditions would tell you that, but this was knock-out rugby league at its most frenetic.

Andre Savelio ran the perfect line to crash over from Kurt Gidley’s short ball, while Patton kicked a penalty to tie the game at 20-20.

Then, the Achilles heel struck again as John Bateman was allowed to waltz through a gaping hole in the defence before Sam Tomkins’ drop goal looked to seal it.

However, Gidley’s try set up a grandstand finish and when Joe Burgess sent the resulting kick off out on the full, the writing seemed on the wall.

Sadly, Stefan Ratchford’s kick sailed wide but Wolves came again, only for Patton to screw his attempt at a one-pointer wide.

Defeat again for Wolves and you’d have thought the dissenting voices would have been out in force at the full-time hooter.

Not so, the majority of the crowd stayed to applaud their players for their gallant efforts. It was the least they deserved.

They may not have won the game, but did Wolves find something to cling onto going into these crucial five games coming up?

Only time will tell…


. Wolves fail to reach the Challenge Cup semi finals for the first time since 2011, when they were also beaten in a home quarter final by Wigan.

. The Wire’s winless run in games against Wigan now stretches to five games.


Challenge Cup quarter final, Saturday, June 17, 2017.

Warrington Wolves…26 Wigan Warriors…27

Wolves: Stefan Ratchford; Will Dagger, Jack Hughes, Ryan Atkins, Tom Lineham; Declan Patton, Kurt Gidley; Mike Cooper, Daryl Clark, Ashton Sims, Benjamin Jullien, Joe Philbin, Joe Westerman. Subs: Brad Dwyer, George King, Andre Savelio, Sam Wilde.

Wigan: Sam Tomkins; Liam Marshall, Anthony Gelling, Oliver Gildart, Joe Burgess; George Williams, Thomas Leuluai; Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Michael McIlorum, Joel Tomkins, John Bateman, Liam Farrell, Sean O’Loughlin. Subs: Willie Isa, Ryan Sutton, Sam Powell, Taulima Tautai.

Scoring: Burgess try, 11mins, Williams goal, 0-6; Burgess try, 21mins, Williams goal, 0-12; Atkins try, 27mins, Patton goal, 6-12; Atkins try, 33mins, Patton goal, 12-12; Marshall try, 37mins, Williams goal, 12-18; Williams penalty, 48mins, 12-20; Savelio try, 56mins, Patton goal, 18-20; Patton penalty, 64mins, 20-20; Bateman try, 66mins, Williams goal, 20-26; S Tomkins drop goal, 73mins, 20-27; Gidley try, 77mins, Patton goal, 26-27.

Penalties: Wolves 14 Wigan 6.

Referee: Ben Thaler.

Attendance: 7,304.

Man of the match (Guardian view): Ryan Atkins.