Warrington Wolves and Wigan Warriors met on Saturday afternoon at the Halliwell-Jones to determine who would join the Catalans Dragons and Leeds Rhinos in the semi-finals.
It was Super Leagues third against second and both brought great current form into the sudden death fixture. Both sides could boast strong line-ups with all of their key players lining up, and strength in depth on the benches.
When the two sides met a fortnight ago in Newcastle, the Warriors were big winners but Wigan were only slight favourites with the bookies, The closeness of the competition made it no surprise that the BBC picked the game for Saturday afternoon live coverage to the nation.
It was a real blood and thunder opening from both sides. Flair in attack and hair-raising defence played out at breakneck speed. The Wolves hit the front on eleven minutes when Kevin Brown stepped inside from first receiver and stretched out to score, one-handed, on the line. Harvey Livett hit the post with the conversion and despite it looking as though it rebounded between the sticks, the touch judges waved it away.
Both sides had opportunities but defences had the upper hand until the thirty-second minute when Ben Murdoch-Masila ran over the top of Taulima Tautai to ground as the Wolves benefitted from forcing a Wigan drop out. Livett kicked the conversion straight between the uprights and on thirty-four the Wolves were 10-0 ahead.
Seconds before the interval Josh Charnley struck a crucial blow against his former side as he flew down the wing off a Ryan Atkins pass to slide over and score by the right corner flag. Livett converted superbly from the touchline for a deserved 16-0 half time lead.
The war continued in the second half and on the hour a cannonball tackle from Thomas Leuluai saw the Wigan hooker sin-binned and missing the next ten minutes. Wigan were becoming increasingly frustrated as they could find no way to break down the Wolves defence.
On seventy-four Livett added a penalty goal from twenty metres out to extend the lead to 18-0 as Warrington cruised into the semi-finals, their eighth in the last ten years. A Tyrone Roberts drop goal on seventy-six pushed the lead out by another point as the Wolves twisted the knife.
On the full-time hooter Dec Patton was on the end of a flowing passing move to cross the line for the Wolves fourth unanswered try of the afternoon as he took a Bryson Goodwin pass to coast over and touch down. Goodwin failed to add the conversion but the Wolves had a 23-0 win.
There can be no denying Wigan’s committment but they couldn’t find any way to breach a superb Warrington defence. Warrington will be as delighted that they kept their opposite pointless as they will be about their cup progress. It was a brilliant effort from the home side and a well deserved win.
Wolves: Ratchford, Lineham, Goodwin, Atkins, Charnley (T), Brown (T), Roberts (DG), Hill, Clark, Cooper, Livett (3G), Hughes, Westwood. Subs: Philbin, Murdoch-Masila (T), Patton (T), Akauola.
Warriors: Tomkins S, Davies, Bateman, Gildart, Marshall, Williams, Powell, Clubb, Leuluai (SB on 60), Flower, Isa, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Subs: Escare, Sutton, Tomkins J., Tautai
Referee: Robert Hicks.