FIRST and foremost, this was a proper Challenge Cup tie.

Sure, the quality on both sides may not have been great at times – the error count was extraordinarily high – but it was a well-contested, full-throttle game of rugby league.

It was easy to tell this was a game between a side desperate to banish the anguish of a Wembley defeat and one just as keen to keep their chances of silverware alive for this year.

It is rare for both sides to walk away from a game happy, but on this occasion both teams can.

The Wire got the win and progress to the quarter-finals while despite losing, Wigan furthered their progress under Adrian Lam.

Relief seemed to be the overriding emotion around The Halliwell Jones Stadium – players and fans alike knew they had been in a game.

The roar around the ground that greeted Romain Navarette’s knock-on from a monster Blake Austin drop-out was a collective “thank goodness for that.”

> Charnley credits belief as Wire 'weather the storm'

Austin himself was kept relatively quiet, but the fact Wolves won regardless will provide plenty of comfort given that their three defeats this season have come when their marquee man has been well-marshalled.

Warrington Guardian:

Blake Austin was kept relatively quiet against Wigan. Picture by Mike Boden

Others stepped up around him, none more so than Daryl Clark.

Virtuoso displays are nothing new for the hooker but now he is really showing a great deal of consistency.

Steve Price was willing to call him Super League’s best number nine in his post-match press conference and on current form, it is hard to disagree.

> Price hails Clark as Super League's best hooker

His try was one about which dummy-halves dream – scything through from behind the ruck off the back of a quick play-the-ball.

Warrington Guardian:

Daryl Clark leaves George Williams lagging. Picture by Mike Boden

Clark would not be as effective without his forwards dominating collision, finding their front and offloading – once again, they stepped up.

Chris Hill and Mike Cooper laid the foundations as they always do and credit must also be given to Sitaleki Akauola for another powerful spell off the bench.

Warrington Guardian:

Sitaleki Akauola once again brought brute force off the bench. Picture by Mike Boden

While Clark was clearly the game’s stand-out player, Stefan Ratchford was not far behind him.

His ability to quickly release the ball after catching it created two Wire tries while his goal-kicking was once again faultless.

Warrington Guardian:

Stefan Ratchford kicked five goals from as many attempts. Picture by Mike Boden

Yes, it would have been nice to see The Wire kick on after going 10 points up in the early stages of the second half, but credit has to go to Wigan for fighting back again.

The way Warrington stepped up and calmly controlled the final 15 minutes or so was impressive in itself and allowed them to keep the Wembley dream alive.


. Third year in a row that Wire and Wigan have met in the Challenge Cup

. Stefan Ratchford’s five goals and 10 points equals a club record in Challenge Cup matches against Wigan


Challenge Cup, sixth round

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Warrington Wolves...26 Wigan Warriors...24

Wolves: Stefan Ratchford; Josh Charnley, Toby King, Ryan Atkins, Bryson Goodwin; Blake Austin, Declan Patton; Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Jack Hughes, Ben Currie, Matt Davis. Subs: Ben Murdoch-Masila, Jason Clark, Joe Philbin, Sitaleki Akauola

Wigan: Zak Hardaker; Liam Marshall, Dan Sarginson, Oliver Gildart, Joe Burgess; George Williams, Thomas Leuluai; Ben Flower, Sam Powell, Romain Navarette, Willie Isa, Joe Greenwood, Tony Clubb. Subs: Joe Bullock, Sean O'Loughlin, Taulima Tautai, Chris Hankinson

Scoring: Goodwin try, 8mins, Ratchford goal, 6-0; Powell try, 26mins, Hardaker goal, 6-6; Hughes try, 29mins, Ratchford goal, 12-6; Leuluai try, 34mins, Hardaker goal, 12-12; D Clark try, 37mins, Ratchford goal, 18-12; Hardaker penalty, 42mins, 18-14; Atkins try, 47mins, Ratchford goal, 24-14; Sarginson try, 53mins, Hardaker goal, 24-20; Hardaker try, 57mins, 24-24; Ratchford penalty, 68mins, 26-24

Penalties: Wolves 4 Wigan 8

Referee: James Child

Attendance: 7,086

Top Man (readers' poll): Daryl Clark