Wigan Warriors produced a comeback for the ages as they recovered from a disastrous five-minute spell in the first half to claim an eventual 30-16 victory against the Warrington Wolves in the Super League Grand Final on Saturday.
A stunning second half from Wigan, led by the New Zealand-bound Sam Tomkins, saw them recover from an early 16-2 deficit to storm to a victory that their fans at Old Trafford could scarcely believe, as they completed the double after Challenge Cup success earlier in the year.
Tries from Darrell Goulding, Michael Mcllorum, Josh Charnley, Blake Green and Pat Richards got the job done, with the fortunes of Green and Richards proving symptomatic of their side’s rise.
Green was given oxygen on the pitch inside the first minute after taking a punch to the face from Ben Westwood, a transgression for which the Warrington player was only put on report. Richards, meanwhile, was outjumped by Joel Monaghan for the game’s first try and then produced a poor error for the second minutes later. Both responded to that adversity with impressive second-half displays.
With 15 minutes remaining and the score poised at 18-16 in Wigan’s favour, Green sold Adrian Morley a beautiful dummy and dived in underneath the posts—allowing Richards, whose kicking had been uncertain in the first half, to notch another conversion.
Richards—one of a number of players returning to the Southern Hemisphere after the game—confirmed the victory beyond any doubt with the 169th try of his Wigan career, as Sean O’Loughlin’s long pass skipped two men and found him in the corner.
“That’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” Green, the man of the match, told Sky Sports afterwards. “Nobody really thought we could win the double, and it’s just a great effort tonight.
“We knew that the game would turn eventually, and we just hung in there. It’s lucky it turned for us.”
By the 60-minute mark, Warrington seemed to have no answer for Wigan’s attacking verve, perhaps restricted by the loss of full-back Stefan Ratchford, who was forced off after a dangerous tackle.
But in the first half, it had been a different matter. Joel Monaghan, Simon Grix and Ben Westwood all scored in the space of five minutes, with the evergreen Lee Briers pulling the strings.
Monaghan, one of the dominant wingers in the sport, rose above Richards to grasp Briers’ cross-field kick with one hand inside the try zone, bringing it into his body and putting it down for the score in one fluid movement of impressive athleticism.
Grix and Westwood then followed as Wigan made life difficult for themselves, but Mcllorum’s try before half-time gave them hope. The second-half display was emphatic.
“It’s unbelievable,” Tomkins added at the final whistle. “There’s a few of us leaving, and they spoke about a fairytale ending for us.
“The greatest game of my life, that one.”