ONCE again Wolves and Wigan provided a classic derby game, full of passion, excitement and controversy.
After a dominant first half performance it looked as though Wolves would serve up a fairytale victory in front of a sell-out Halliwell Jones
Wolves’ head of coaching and rugby, Tony Smith, said in the post-match press conference that the players were ‘singing the team song’ in the dressing room at half time.
And who could have blamed them?
The home side were completely in control in the first period and despite an unconverted try from Roberts - who put in a stunning performance at full back - it looked almost a certainty that Wolves
would continue their unbeaten league home run against their fierce rivals.
But Wigan emerged from the break a changed side and were waiting for the opportunity to pounce. That opportunity arose in the 52nd minute when the talismanic half back Lee Briers was carried off the field with suspected ankle ligament damage.
It was in the 15 minutes directly after the Briers’ unfortunate exit that Wolves lost the game.
Wigan smelled weakness and the loss of such an important player obviously affected the confidence and cohesion of the Wolves team as a whole.
Smith said he believed that the momentum had already swung in Wigan’s direction when Briers was carried off and to a certain extent that was true.
But it was the catalyst for Maguire’s side to increase their intensity and without their inspirational attacking force Wolves were unable to reduce the pressure on their defence.
It was certainly a painful experience for the Warrington fans but enthralling for the neutral and a fantastic advert for this great sport.
There are also many positives to be taken from the loss as well.
Briers kicked his 850th conversion for Warrington and Chris Riley continued his remarkable scoring run, notching his seventh try in three matches just two
days before his 22nd birthday.
But the outstanding performance came from Michael Monaghan, who really seems to be thriving in his role at hooker.
His usual high standard of passing was evident and it was only his re-introduction after the loss of Briers that gave Wolves the hope that they would fight back.
Briers could potentially be out of action for some weeks, a huge loss for Smith’s side.
But they will be glad that, in Monaghan, they have a player who is able to partly fill those boots.
First time Wigan have won a competitive game at The Halliwell Jones Stadium, having failed six times previously
First time stadium sold out in advance of a game since Andrew Johns' debut for Wolves against Leeds in 2005
Chris Riley takes his scoring run to 7 tries in 3 games
Richie Myler makes it 4 tries in 3 games since joining Warrington
First time Matt King has failed to score against Wigan for Warrington
Lee Briers' first conversion was his 850th for the club
engage super league Round Three
Saturday February 20, 2010
Wolves...20 Wigan Warriors...22
Richie Mathers; Chris Riley (1t), Matt King, Chris Bridge, Ryan Atkins; Lee Briers (2g), Richie Myler (1t); Adrian Morley, Michael Monaghan, Garreth Carvell, Louis Anderson (1t), Ben Westwood, Ben
Harrison. Subs: Mickey Higham, Paul Wood, Simon Grix, David Solomona (1t).
Amos Roberts (2t); Darrell Goulding (1t), Martin Gleeson, George Carmont, Pat Richards (4g); Sam Tomkins, Paul Deacon; Stuart Fielden, Thomas Leuluai, Andy Coley, Harrison Hansen, Joel Tomkins
(1t), Sean O'Loughlin. Subs: Paul Prescott, Phillip Bailey, Iafeta Paleaaesina
Amos Roberts breaks through Wolves line and sprints to corner, 8 mins, 0-4; Michael Monaghan picks out Richie Myler who darted between two Wigan defenders to find the line, 19 mins, Briers
converted, 6-4; Riley converts a crisp passing move out to the right and goes over in corner, 10-4; Solomona uses his brute strength to storm over the line and score, 37 mins, Briers converted,
16-4; Leuluai sends Roberts over in the corner, 57 mins, 16-8; Goulding goes over after a slick back pass from Roberts, 59 mins, Richards converted, 16-14; Richards is on target with a penalty, 62
mins, 16-16; Kick and chase from Sam Tomkins starts the move which brother Joel Tomkins finishes, 70 mins, Richards converted, 22-16; Louis Anderson finishes a move to take Wolves within touching
distance, 74 mins, 20-22.
Wolves 10 Wigan 9