Wigan Warriors 30
Tries: Farrell, Hampshire, Manfredi (3), Gelling
Goals: Smith 3/6
Warrington Wolves 20
Tries: Monaghan, Bridge (2), Currie
Goals: Ratchford 2/4
Ben Flower made his return to action following his six-month ban as Wigan beat Warrington 30-20 at The DW Stadium in a breathless Super League game.
Wigan chairman Ian Lenegan addressed the crowd at half-time to confirm the club will be re-signing full-back Sam Tomkins from New Zealand Warriors at the end of the year on a four-year contract, for a fee of £200,000.
Dom Manfredi’s second hat-trick of tries in as many games helped move the Warriors to within one point of arch-rivals St Helens in 2nd place in the table.
The Wolves have now lost five of their last six Super League matches and remain without a win at The DW Stadium since March 2012.
Warrington hammered Wakefield 80-0 last week and picked up where they left off in that game, racing into a 10-0 lead inside the opening 11 minutes. Joel Monaghan crossed for the first score of the night after being found by Stefan Ratchford’s cut-out pass down Wigan’s left edge. It was the 32 year-old’s 13th try in 11 appearances against The Warriors.
The Wolves’ second try came after Ryan Hampshire spilled Declan Patton’s huge kick in front of his own posts. That gave Warrington head and feed at the scrum 20 metres from Wigan’s line and they made it count. Chris Bridge easily fended off Dan Sarginson to force his way over and give his side a 10-0 lead.
Wigan rallied and led six minutes later after their own double-salvo. The first was set up by a brilliant run from young half-back George Williams, who ghosted between Richie Myler and Bridge before finding Joe Burgess out wide. The Sydney-bound winger sprinted away and attracted Warrington full-back Stefan Ratchford over. Burgess found Liam Farrell in support on the inside for an easy try.
Just two minutes later The Warriors went in front as Hampshire made amends for his earlier error. Farrell’s loose pass was scooped up by Sarginson who gave it to Burgess on the outside. Again the 20 year-old used his pace and drew the attentions of Ratchford, before passing to Hampshire who was up in support. Matty Smith goaled both tries and the hosts were 12-10 up.
Welsh international Flower took to the field from the bench on 23 minutes and received a rapturous welcome from the home fans. However, those fans were silenced a minute later when Bridge scored his second try of the night.
A break from Ratchford took Warrington into Wigan territory, and, off the back of a quick play the ball from Daryl Clark, they moved the ball out to the right where, once again, Bridge outmuscled Sarginson to put Wire back in front.
However, Ratchford only successfully converted one of his sides three tries in the first half meaning that Wigan were only two points behind.
Just after the half-hour mark, the home side retook the lead through Manfredi’s first four-pointer of the night. It owed much to the superb offload from Joel Tomkins, who popped the ball up from off the ground despite being tackled by Patton and Ratchford. The 21 year-old greatfully received the ball to touch down. The Cherry and Whites went into the half-time break with a 16-14 lead after a thrilling first 40 minutes.
Then came the announcement that Sam Tomkins would be returning to Wigan for 2016. With the crowd buoyed by that news, The Warriors came out for the second half all guns blazing, but Warrington somehow managed to keep them out.
In fact it was the visitors who scored next as the lead changed hands for the fourth time. Patton’s short pass put Ben Currie through a hole in the Wigan line and his fifth touch down of the season, along with Ratchford’s conversion, saw The Wolves edge 20-16 in front.
On 51 minutes Anthony Gelling scored and Smith goaled to give the home side the lead that they would not relinquish for the rest of the evening. The Cook Islander was on the end of Williams’ delayed pass and Smith’s conversion gave Wigan a two point advantage.
Michael McIlorum left the field with a head injury just before the 60-minute mark after he put a big hit on James Laithwaite, which parted the Wolves forward from the ball. The Wigan doctor, Chris Brookes, took the hooker from the field and he did not return.
Gelling then showed excellent hands to provide a short pass for Manfredi to grab his second try of the match. Smith missed the conversion from the touch line meaning the lead was just six points and the game remained very much in the balance.
13 minutes from the end Wigan sealed the victory and again it was Gelling providing the assist for Manfredi to score. Matty Smith attempted a drop goal from about 15 metres out, bang in front of the posts. Warrington charged it down and the ball trickled over to Wigan’s right-hand side. As Gene Ormsby flung himself to try and land on the loose ball, Gelling managed to chip it up off the floor with his boot out to his winger who raced onto it to score. It was Manfredi’s second hat-trick in a week and despite Smith missing the goal kick, the Cherry and Whites now led 30-20.
The Wolves might have set up a grandstand finish when Ormsby leapt for Myler’s chip in goal 8 minutes from time, but the winger couldn’t quite claim it and Wigan were able to breathe a sigh of relief.
It was a terrific night for The Warriors, who made it four wins from their last five games. They were able to welcome back Ben Flower, who was used sparingly off the bench and announced the return of home-town hero Sam Tomkins for next season.
For Warrington, despite a great effort the defeat was their fourth in five away games this year and their fifth in six matches.