Wigan Warriors Claim Grand Final Victory
Wigan Warriors staged the biggest comeback in Grand Final history with a 30-16 win over Warrington Wolves and become only the third club to complete the Cup and League double of the summer era and provide Sam Tomkins with a fairytale farewell.
The Warriors came from 16-2 down to overwhelm an injury-ravaged Warrington in an Old Trafford clash of pure drama, raw courage and high emotion to condemn their opponents to a second consecutive Grand Final defeat and leave them still waiting for a first league title since 1955.
The courage was provided mainly by Wigan stand-off Blake Green, who was knocked unconscious from a punch by England forward Ben Westwood just two minutes into the game but recovered to deliver the knockout blow to the Wolves with a man-of-the-match performance that earned him the Harry Sunderland Trophy.
The Warriors looked down and out after conceding three tries in an eight-minute spell but ran in 28 unanswered points to follow up their Challenge Cup triumph in August with their second Super League title in four years.
Only St Helens and Bradford Bulls had previously done the double in the 18 years of Super League and Tomkins and Wigan now face a stern test as they look to build on this year's success after the match signalled the dismantling of their victorious team.
In addition to Tomkins, who is leaving in a world-record move to New Zealand Warriors, the match signalled the end of their Wigan careers for Australian winger Pat Richards and England forward Lee Mossop.
Richards fittingly scored the last of his side's five tries and rounded off the scoring with a fifth goal to bow out on a high, taking his total of points for the club to 2,468, while winger Josh Charnley scored his 43rd try of the season during the Warriors' second-half rout.
There were contrasting emotions in the opposing camp, where front-row forwards Adrian Morley, Garreth Carvell and Mike Cooper ended their Warrington careers in despair.
It was billed as the dream final and, on an unseasonal balmy evening in Manchester which produced perfect playing conditions, they did not disappoint.
It began on a controversial note, with Westwood marring an otherwise impressive display with a cynical punch on Green which went unpunished but was enough to leave the Wigan playmaker needing oxygen on the pitch.
Green recovered sufficiently to produce a 40-20 kick that put his side into the ideal attacking position but Warrington's defence was initially assured.
Wigan's defence also survived an early test and they took the lead with a 40-metre penalty from Richards after former Wigan hooker Mickey Higham was pulled up for a ball steal.
The tight contest then suddenly exploded into something of a spree for the Wolves, who took a firm grip on the game with three tries in eight minutes.
Right winger Joel Monaghan, who had earlier fumbled the ball from a Lee Briers high kick, managed to juggle with it the next time after outjumping Richards and planted the ball down for his 28th try of the season.
Richards compounded his error by putting the re-start dead to put Warrington straight back onto the attack and unsung second rower Simon Grix took Higham's short pass to cross for a second try.
This time Stefan Ratchford added the goal and he was also on target moments later to make it 16-2 when Westwood took Briers' well-timed pass to burst over for a try.
There was a second lengthy injury stoppage, when Joel Monaghan knocked himself unconscious attempting to tackle Richards and was carried off on a stretcher, but it gave Wigan time to regroup as coach Shaun Wane waited on the touchline to deliver his half-time pep talk.
The talk would have been more positive after the Warriors pulled a try back three minutes before the break, centre Darrell Goulding taking Tomkins' pass to produce a decisive finish to a familiar training-ground move that had repeatedly failed to come off up to that point.
And the comeback was on when Wigan hooker Michael McIlorum went past his opposite number Michael Monaghan to cross from dummy half for his side's second try.
Richards' second goal cut the deficit to four points and the Warriors went in front for the first time after 52 minutes when Charnley followed up Goulding's grubber kick and took advantage of a kind bounce to race over for his 43rd try of the year.
Chris Riley, who had switched to full-back moments earlier when Ratchford hobbled off, ought to have done better and he quickly found himself pushed back onto the wing as Briers became Warrington's third full-back in almost as many minutes.
The patched-up Wolves were reeling at that stage and, had Charnley been able to take Tomkins' pass with the line open three minutes later, the game would have been over then.
He was then held up over the line after collecting Green's high ball but it was no surprise when Wigan extended their lead after 64 minutes, with Green jinking his way over for the match-clinching try.
The finishing touches were then applied by Richards, who took a floating pass from skipper Sean O'Loughlin to scored Wigan's fifth try and he added the conversion.