Super League: Wigan win 20-6 as Wembley-bound Warrington suffer fifth straight defeat
|Betfred Super League|
|Wigan (18) 20|
|Tries: French, Williams, Hardaker Goals: Hardaker|
|Warrington (0) 6|
|Tries: Lineham Goals: Patton|
Challenge Cup finalists Warrington suffered a fifth straight Super League defeat as they lost to Wigan for the first time in four meetings in 2019.
Injury-hit Wire had their two top try scorers Blake Austin and Josh Charnley among a host of missing players.
And they were taken apart with three first-half tries from Bevan French, George Williams and Zak Hardaker.
Steve Price's side improved after the break but only had a late Tom Lineham consolation touchdown to show for it.
Dec Patton, who had earlier seen two tries chalked off, one of them harshly, landed the conversion, but although they won the second half, it was Wigan's early blitz that sealed the game.
Two tries in three minutes just before the end of the first quarter stunned the visitors as, on his first start, Australian winger French went in at the right corner for his first Super League try since arriving from Parramatta Eels.
He might have added a quick second but Williams, having shimmied his way through from inside his own half, threw two more brilliant dummies to flatfoot Stefan Ratchford and opted not to feed French on his outside but instead cut inside much closer to the posts.
After Hardaker had gone in for a third try, the lively French came even closer to a second for himself when he crossed the whitewash on 30 minutes but it was ruled out, as it was deemed that he had lost control of the ball briefly in sliding under the posts.
Patton suffered the same fate after the break, and was then denied by the officials again when it was ruled that this time he had made a double movement.
Lineham finally got in for Warrington at the left corner for his 11th Super League try of the season as the visitors at least avoided the indignity of being 'nilled' in their final warm-up game before meeting runaway Super League leaders St Helens at Wembley on 24 August.
On-loan Matty Smith, ineligible to play at Wembley next weekend, made his second appearance for Warrington, but he suffered an unhappy night on his return to face against a Wigan side with whom he was twice a Grand Final winner against Wire (in 2013 and 2016).
Hardaker enjoyed a 100% record with the boot for the hosts, kicking all three conversions and a penalty, for a 12-point individual haul as Wigan's ninth win in 10 games lifted them up a place to third.
They are now level on 30 points with both second-placed Warrington and Hull FC, who drop to fourth but can go second if they win at home to Salford on Saturday.
How do Warrington look ahead of Wembley?
St Helens coach Justin Holbrook was at the DW Stadium to run the rule over next weekend's Wembley opponents.
After leading Saints to victory at Leeds on Thursday, Holbrook had speculated that his Warrington counterpart Steve Price might be playing mind games over team selection for the Challenge Cup final - particularly over the fitness of Australian playmaker Austin.
Warrington had Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper and Toby King back after missing last weekend's Wembley dress rehearsal defeat by Saints.
However, Price remains unsure about Austin, who sprained an ankle during the ill-tempered 30-10 defeat by Catalans Dragons in Perpignan on 3 August, while second-rower Hughes ruptured a testicle in the same game and Charnley has now missed three matches following minor knee surgery.
All Price would say is that all three players are "going well" in their fitness fight.
Added to that, full-back Ratchford has now become a fresh worry, while centre Bryson Goodwin (failed concussion test) and veteran loose forward Ben Westwood also failed to finish the game.
"I got told Stefan had to come off," said Price. "He had a couple of issues down the lower legs and also up top so there's a bit going on. He's another one who's got a bit of a cloud. We've got a few wounded but whoever takes the field next week I'm confident will do a good job."
Wigan coach Adrian Lam:
"I know Bevan French will put bums on seats here at the DW Stadium. He'll be a revelation for the Super League.
"He's exciting, isn't he? I get on my feet every time he gets the ball. What's left of this season and 2020 is going to be unbelievable for him.
"I've just been told the last time we played Warrington at Magic Weekend, we were seventh.
"We've climbed a few places since then which is pleasing for the supporters.
Warrington coach Steve Price:
(Was Wembley on the players' minds?) "You'd like to think not but maybe it was. They are human beings and they're playing for a different mindset to what we're playing for.
"I was very encouraged by the second half. We got a reaction from the lads but time will tell. Even though we've had some tough losses of late, we've still got strong belief in the group. We'll go down to Wembley and give it a big shot.
"I've been in this situation before. I know what it takes to win big games and form goes out of the window next week. I've got a squad of international players, a group of men who have played over 300 first-team appearances and know what it takes.
"But it's going to take a really special performance against the best team in the competition. They're the biggest favourites I'm sure in Challenge Cup history and we'll be the biggest underdogs."
Wigan: Hardaker; French, Sarginson, Gildart, Marshall; Williams, Leuluai; Clubb, Powell, Partington, Isa, Farrell, Smithies.
Interchanges: Navarrete, Greenwood, Byrne, Sammut.
Sin Bin: Gildart (58).
Warrington: Ratchford; Lineham, Goodwin, M Smith, Patton; King, Mamo; Hill, D Clark, Cooper, Currie, Livett, Akauola.
Interchanges: Murdoch-Masila, J Clark, Philbin, Westwood.
Referee: Ben Thaler.