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GUARDIAN VERDICT: Wigan Warriors 17 Warrington Wolves 17
AS a spectacle, it is hard to argue against Wolves’ clash with Wigan having been an excellent game to advertise rugby league to a new audience.
A tense, frantic finale was pierced by two game-changing drop goals and numerous long-range attempts to clinch the winner, over the backdrop of a fierce contest between two teams with no love lost.
Like Tony Smith said afterwards, it is just a shame that Super League does not throw up tight, exciting games like this more often.
But while Lee Briers’ drop goal to rescue a 17-17 draw may have ensured the man in the stand walked away largely happy, Smith and his men will have lots to focus on after they have analysed on video their trip to the DW.
Handling errors and rustiness – typified by Mike Cooper’s trio of knock ons in the space of five first-half minutes – meant that Warrington could not break down the hosts’ defence even after back-to-back penalties had given them ample chance to attack.
That said, Wolves had done well to drag themselves level shortly before the break, considering Wigan’s speed at the play-the-ball and control of the ruck enabled them to dominate much of the first half.
But Wolves’ inability to make the breakthrough suggested that Smith’s pre-season assertions that his side were a little ‘underdone’ were spot on.
It is arguable that later in the season a sharper Wolves would have justified their favouritism by using that purple patch to build an unassailable lead, but right now, a share of the points was undoubtedly the fair result.
Richie Myler’s brilliant individual effort – hopefully an indication that the scrum half will be willing to take on the line more often – and Lee Briers’ superb drop goal showed that the metal gleams as brightly as it always did underneath the rust.
But with 25 games of a long season yet to go, Smith and his men can take their time polishing their skills until they are ready to shine under the spotlight of the end-of-season play-offs.
* First time Wolves have failed to win at DW Stadium since 2009
* Joel Monaghan has never failed to score against Wigan in a Super League meeting
* Richie Myler now only needs three tries for a career century of touchdowns
* One more try for Ben Westwood to clock up his 100th in primrose and blue
* Lee Briers also kicked the match-levelling drop gaol when the only previous Super League draw with Wigan ended 17-17 at Wilderspool in 1999
Super League Round 2, Friday, February 8, 2013
Wigan Warriors...17 Warrington Wolves...17
Warriors: Sam Tomkins; Josh Charnley, Darrell Goulding, Iain Thornley, Pat Richards; Blake Green, Matty Smith; Gil Dudson, Michael McIlorum, Lee Mossop, Jack Hughes, Liam Farrell, Sean O’Loughlin. Subs: Ben Flower, Scott Taylor, Sam Powell, Greg Burke.
Wolves: Brett Hodgson; Joel Monaghan, Rhys Evans, Ryan Atkins, Chris Riley; Lee Briers, Richie Myler; Adrian Morley, Michael Monaghan, Chris Hill, Ben Westwood, Trent Waterhouse, Simon Grix. Subs: Garreth Carvell, Mike Cooper, Micky Higham, Stefan Ratchford.
Scoring: Joel Monaghan try, 9mins, Hodgson goal, 0-6; Charnley try, 15mins, 6-4; Flower try, 22mins, Richards goal, 10-6, Monaghan try, 36mins, 10-10; Richards penalty, 12-10; Myler try, 41 mins, Hodgson goal, 12-16; Farrell try, 50mins, 16-16; Smith drop goal, 72mins, 17-16, Briers drop goal, 77mins, 17-17.
Pens: Warriors 9 Wolves 10
Referee: Phil Bentham
Top man: Richie Myler