The teams in third and fourth place in the 2021 Super League table met at the Halliwell-Jones Stadium as the Warrington Wolves played host to a Wigan Warriors side who are still trying to reverse a slide which saw them plummet from the top spot earlier in the season.
Warrington were favourites with the bookies to pick up the win, and had been handicapped by six points on the coupon indicating that it might be a close thing.
A win for the Warriors would lift them into the third spot currently occupied by Warrington, but a loss would see them drop below Hull FC into fifth spot in the table as the sides jostle for a play-off finish.
It was an end to end opening fourteen minutes with some sensational defensive efforts denying some expansive attacking efforts. It was fast hands from Wigan which broke the deadlock, the ball ending in the hands of Liam Marshall who grounded while airborne in the left corner. Harry Smith hit the left upright with his touchline conversion, the Warriors 4-0 ahead.
Warrington responded three minutes later when Blake Austin was on hand to take a Daryl Clark pass and spin out of a tackle and crawl over on his knees to ground. Stefan Ratchford added the conversion to give his side the lead.
Wigan were back in front of twenty-four as Marshall got his second taking a Smith chip to the corner and going seven metres to again score in the corner. From the same spot, Smith pushed his kick wide of the right upright leaving Wigan just two points ahead.
It was wall to wall entertainment for the good crowd in the Halliwell-Jones and two minutes from the half time hooter Josh Thewlis managed to ground an Olivert Gildart fumble of a high kick, under pressure from Jake Mamo, as the ball bounced in-goal. Ratchford added the conversion with Wigan going into the interval at 12-8.
A late tackle by Byrne on Austin gifted the Wolves a simple opportunity to add another two points and Ratchford grasped it with both hands for 14-8.
A fracas broke out on the hour mark as tempers started to fray but the referee kept his cards in his pocket.
Two minutes later Mamo picked up a loose ball spilled by Marshall, who’d been caught on the ground by Josh Charnley, and sprinted ninety metres down the right wing to go in at the corner. As Ratchford added the goal Marshall was still receiving treatment in back play. Warrington were now twelve points ahead.
There was another fight on sixty-seven with Mamo sin-binned and joined by Ollie Partington for their part in the pushing and shoving.
With nine minutes left on the clock Jake Bibby had a try turned down for a knock-on and the crowd was denied a grandstand finish.
The Wolves nerves were settled on seventy-seven when Austin just cleared the cross bar with a drop goal for a thirteen-point lead to seal the all-important win to consolidate their third spot and push Wigan into fifth. It was a scrappy performance by Warrington’s high standards…big crowd nerves for the first time in eighteen months perhaps.
Warrington Wolves: Thewlis (T), Mamo (T, SB on 67), Hughes, King, Charnley, Austin (T, DG), Ratchford (4G), Hill, Clark D, Cooper, Currie, Clark J, Akauola. Subs: Philbin, Mulhern, Davis, Wrench.
Wigan Warriors: Hastings, Marshall (2T), Gildart, Isa, Bibby, Smith, Leuluai, Singleton, Powell, Clubb, Farrell, Pearce-Paul, Partington (SB on 67). Subs: Shorrocks, Havard, Byrne, Bourouh.
Referee: Robert Hicks.
Score Progression: 0-4, 4-4, 6-4, 6-8, 10-8, 12-8 : HT : 14-8, 18-8, 20-8, (SB), (SB), 21-8: FT.