Image Credit: PA
Wigan Warriors gave departing coach Shaun Wane a fairytale ending to his tenure at the club with a hard-fought 12-4 victory over Warrington Wolves in the Super League Grand Final.
A star performance from resurgent winger Dominic Manfredi was a key factor behind Wane departing Wigan a Grand Final winner yet again, ending his 30 years at the club on a high. In a victory built largely on stoic defence, it was Manfredi’s two tries that made the difference in Wigan bringing home their second Super League crown in three years.
In a tense opening quarter, underdogs Warrington struck first. Man-of-the-match Stefan Ratchford’s cut out pass found ex-Warrior Josh Charnley, who slid in the right-hand corner to open the scoring on 14 minutes.
Wigan’s leveller came ten minutes later, with recent England call-up Oliver Gildart weaving through three Warrington defenders to put right-winger Manfredi in at the corner, who scored Wigan’s opening try in just his fifth match of the year.
Five minutes later, Wigan’s left side then kicked into gear. George Williams’ pinpoint grubber caught out the Wolves’ high defensive line, with young winger Tom Davies grounding the ball in goal with merely a blade of grass to spare.
The Wigan faithful erupted at the quick turnaround going into half-time, and the players soon followed suit, with both teams involved in a massive fracas in the Old Trafford tunnel that threatened to boil over before they were separated.
The second half started in the same gutsy fashion, with Warriors pair Manfredi and Thomas Leuluai both bandaged up and playing on after head clashes. The half-time melee did not spark Warrington as coach Steve Price hoped, as they lacked any real attacking direction despite the best efforts of Ratchford.
The second half was dominated by Wigan’s brutish defence, with the Wolves rarely getting a sniff and being constantly trapped in their own half by Williams’ pinpoint kicking. Fullback Sam Tomkins was lucky to remain on the pitch after being caught both tripping and leading with the knees to deny Warrington try-scoring opportunities.
Wane struggled to hold back his emotions at full-time, tearfully saying how proud he was at everyone at the club, from players to backroom staff.
Tomkins turned provider though for the game-sealing try, setting up Manfredi for the winger’s second try of the game, making it 14-4 to Wigan with three minutes left. Like Wane, this was also Tomkins’ farewell for the club, departing for Catalans Dragons. He will exit the Warriors alongside forward stalwarts John Bateman and Ryan Sutton, both of whom are joining the NRL’s Canberra Raiders.
Wane struggled to hold back his emotions at full-time, tearfully saying how proud he was at everyone at the club, from players to backroom staff. Leaving Wigan to take up a role with the Scottish Rugby Union, Wane said that “I’m not previewing any games anymore, so I’m not bothered about the performance, I just wanted to get the win.” Despite these emotional words, the Warriors players definitely gave their outgoing coach a performance to be proud of, regardless of the scoreline.
Warrington coach Steve Price credited Wane’s team for their insurmountable defence, and was later pictured sharing a beer with Wane in the Old Trafford changing room, a photo that epitomised what Rugby League is all about, even in the polarising atmosphere of its biggest stage. Price’s first season at the Wolves has amounted to two finals but no silverware, however with the arrival of Canberra star Blake Austin, next season looks promising to say the least.
For Shaun Wane however, he leaves behind a 30-year legacy that started in Wigan’s glory years of the mid-80s & 90s, and ends by lifting one final piece of silverware for his local, and Rugby League’s most successful, club.