Warrington’s George Williams helps claim pulsating win against Wigan

Warrington’s George Williams helps claim pulsating win against Wigan

For all the entertainment Super League’s Magic Weekend has provided in its 15-year history, the one thing it’s always missed is a sense of great importance to the play-offs scramble and relegation battle.

That, of course, is largely down to it usually taking place in the early stages of the season. But with Covid-19 forcing the event back to the latter rounds of this year’s campaign, there was a guarantee of season-defining results. Catalans proved that on Saturday with the dramatic victory that secured a first League Leaders’ Shield – and Warrington Wolves followed suit here.

Defeat for Steve Price’s side would have raised the prospect of Wigan overtaking them in third going into the final fortnight of the season before the play-offs. That guarantees an extra home game in the race for Old Trafford, and it was Warrington who all-but secured that prize here with victory in another pulsating instalment of this fascinating rivalry.

For all the drama we saw on the opening day of Magic Weekend, with two of the three games going to golden point extra-time and Catalans securing top spot, this was an equally enthralling contest. For 80 minutes, Warrington and Wigan were full-throttle. It felt like the ball never left the field of play on occasions, adding to the intensity on display from both.

“The game was end to end, it was free-flowing and they were certainly up for the fight,” Price said. “But to hang in there, to hang tough.. that’s really pleasing.” Second may be beyond the Wolves given their defeat to St Helens earlier in the week, but they continue to show positive signs before the play-offs.

In the end, it was a try from a boyhood Wigan supporter which separated the sides. George Williams had been booed by the fans who used to cheer him prior to his instinctive solo finish just before the half-hour mark. Little could he or anyone have known at that early stage that it would prove to be the match-winning try.

Warrington broke the deadlock when Josh Thewlis pounced on a Gareth Widdop kick that Wigan inexplicably let bounce, before Williams’ try made it 10-0. There was certainly no shortage of effort for Wigan, but yet again, their attack in key moments let them down. Their only try came on the stroke of half-time when Ethan Havard broke free to score.

As has been the case in recent weeks, Wigan couldn’t find the killer touch after half-time to breach Warrington’s line again. And this defeat not only ensured third is out of the Warriors’ reach, but following victories for Leeds and Castleford on Saturday, it means they could yet finish as low as sixth.

Their coach, however, remains defiant, with Adrian Lam saying: “I think we’re ready for the play-offs. We were gritty here, we never gave up and I’m proud of their efforts.” The final moments even afforded Wigan a couple of chances to steal the game.

But their panic in attack was underlined by a frenetic passage of play late on which saw another chance, and the last opportunity to keep their hopes of third alive, pass them by. The one game of the six at Magic without any real consequence was Sunday’s opener, as Wakefield made it four wins from five under caretaker coach Willie Poching with victory against Huddersfield.