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GUARDIAN VERDICT, GRAND FINAL: Warrington Wolves 16 Wigan Warriors 30
No hiding place for Chris Hill and the team after the Grand Final loss. Pictures by Mike Boden and Dave Gillespie
WHAT a cruel way to have championship dreams crushed!
Flying Wolves, in control with a 16-2 lead after 35 minutes, subsequently lost three players with injuries and the impact was clear for all to see as Wigan sniffed their opportunity and clinically marched to a Super League and Challenge Cup double.
But not only did Wolves end up without the strike power of top try scorer Joel Monaghan (concussion, 37mins), player’s player of the year Stefan Ratchford (ankle ligaments, 51mins) and hard-working forward Ben Harrison (pelvic injury, 51mins), Garreth Carvell continued with a broken rib while fellow forwards Simon Grix, Ben Westwood and Chris Hill all played on with war wounds.
They had to, leaving a number of the big boys playing for longer periods than they are used to because Wolves had only one ‘fit’ substitute for the final 30 minutes.
The disruption reverberated across the whole team, with players moving from the spots where they are most accustomed and at their most lethal to fill in for missing comrades.
There were three reshuffles, with starting second rower Simon Grix sandwiching a brief period at left centre with two spells on the right flank.
Stand off Lee Briers ended up at full back, centre Chris Bridge on the wing, hooker Michael Monaghan at scrum half. Winger Chris Riley spent time at full back, centre Ryan Atkins on the wing, back rower Ben Westwood at centre and prop Mike Cooper in the back row.
All of this sacrifice and adaptation under pressure in the most brutal and intense battles of the year occurred in a 17-minute spell either side of half time, a period in which Wigan made all the right decisions to capitalise on Warrington’s misfortune to go 18-16 in front.
Wigan, who had not beaten Wolves since 2011, scored two of their comeback tries in the sets that immediately followed Wolves’ opening backline reshuffles, while the second-half try from Michael McIlorum came as a consequence of injured Carvell’s inability to take his spot in the defensive line.
With all of the adversity and in the face of a mounting 7-2 second-half penalty account, born from Wolves’ frustration and weariness, the steam and punch had deserted the ability to attack from deep inside their own half – a situation managed expertly by the cherry and whites.
Yet, only two points behind, Wolves courageously hung in there for 10 minutes. The willingness to die for the cause was incredible.
Deserved Harry Sunderland Trophy winner Blake Green – the Wigan stand off who bruisingly survived Ben Westwood’s second-minute punch – finally broke Wolves’ hearts 11 minutes from time when he stepped off his right foot to elude Adrian Morley’s tackle to touch down.
But even that defining moment was controversial. Had Richard Silverwood gone to the video referee, it may have been spotted that McIlorum had stuck his rear end into Hill’s path as he attempted to deliver a cover tackle. It was a blatant obstruction as well as a fatal blow.
Wolves will rue not having killed Wigan off when things had been going their way.
The three tries in eight minutes from Joel Monaghan, Grix and Westwood were a wonderful platform, but when Bridge was bundled into touch early in the tackle count soon afterwards and Sam Tomkins was in position to stop Atkins benefiting from an excellent Richie Myler grubber early in the second half they proved to be Wolves’ last opportunities to score.
Wigan may have been smart enough and skilful enough to come out on top, but it has to be said that Wolves were heroic in defeat.
With everything that occurred on the night, they were in a state that no team could have prepared for.
Although Warrington’s players would have liked to have handled what was thrown at them better, the majority of other sides would have crumbled.
Wolves did not. The truth is, they battled like champions. The town should be very proud of them.
Wolves’ first loss to Wigan since Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat in 2011
Largest comeback by the eventual winners in a Super League Grand Final
Wigan became first team to win Super League and Challenge Cup double since St Helens’ achievement in 2006
Australian Joel Monaghan’s try was his 31st of the season, making it his best tally in any one campaign on either side of the world n Wolves have only won one major final in 11 meetings with Wigan
Attendance was lowest for a Grand Final at Old Trafford since 2009, when 3,000 less watched St Helens and Leeds Rhinos contest for the title for the third successive year
At 36 years and 148 days old, Adrian Morley is the oldest player to have competed in the Grand Final
Paul Wood’s 300th Super League appearance in primrose and blue
Tony Smith equalled Brian Noble’s record of five coaching appearances in the Grand Final
Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford
Saturday, October 5, 2013
Warrington Wolves...16 Wigan Warriors...30
Wolves: Stefan Ratchford; Joel Monaghan, Chris Bridge, Ryan Atkins, Chris Riley; Lee Briers, Richie Myler; Paul Wood, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, Ben Westwood, Simon Grix, Ben Harrison. Subs: Adrian Morley, Michael Monaghan, Garreth Carvell, Mike Cooper.
Warriors: Sam Tomkins; Josh Charnley, Darrell Goulding, Iain Thornley, Pat Richards; Blake Green, Matty Smith; Gil Dudson, Michael McIlorum, Lee Mossop, Harrison Hansen, Liam Farrell, Sean O'Loughlin. Subs: Jack Hughes, Ben Flower, Scott Taylor, Dominic Crosby.
Scoring: Richards penalty goal, 15mins, 0-2; Joel Monaghan try, 27mins, 4-2; Grix try, 31mins, Ratchford conversion, 10-2; Westwood try, 35mins, Ratchford conversion, 16-2; Goulding try, 40+mins, 16-6; McIlorum try, 49mins, Richards conversion, 16-12; Charnley try, 56mins, Richards conversion, 16-18; Green try, 69mins, Richards conversion, 16-24; Richards try, 80+mins, Richards conversion, 16-30.
Penalties: Wolves 7 Warriors 10
Referee: Richard Silverwood
Top Man: Ben Westwood
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