It seems like just yesterday, in the frozen depths of winter, that Super League XXIII got underway with twelve clubs brimming full of hope and expectation. The race is already run for ten of those original dozen hopefuls, but tonight, at the Theatre of Dreams, either the Wigan Warriors or the Warrington Wolves would cap their season with the ultimate silverware and the title of ‘Champions’. It was sure to be an emotionally charged night, regardless of the eventual winner. Warrington were looking to end a sixty-three year wait with their first title in over six decades, while Wigan would say a fond farewell to their coach Shaun Wane after seven trophy laden years in charge. The bookies had the double W’s of Wigan as favourites to emerge victors, but the Wolves fans were in attendance filled with hope an belief that it really could be their year. Warrington were unchanged from the side which broke Saint hearts last weekend in the play-off as were Wigan, with the same seventeen which nilled the Castleford Tigers in securing the Warriors Grand Final berth. The sides exchanged errors early on and when Dan Sarginson spilled the ball inside his own twenty on thirteen minutes, the Wolves used three tackles to move the ball through hands to the right wing where Josh Charnley found space on the overlap to slide over from ten metres out. Tyrone Roberts was unable to add the extra two points, slipping his touchline kick to the right of the uprights. On twenty-five the Warriors finally found their way through a dogged and determined Warrington defence when Dominic Manfredi found space down the right side after great foodwork from Oliver Gildart to create the space. Sam Tomkins slipped his conversion attempt across the face of the sticks, the sides tied up at 4-4. Five minutes later and the Warriors were in the lead when Tom Davies chased down a Tomkins grubber to ground one-handed a couple of metres in from the left corner flag. Tomkins was again unable to add the extras two but now the Wolves were playing catch-up. After an earlier trip tackle, Tomkins slid in with the knees and got a second warning from referee Hicks, but despite finishing the half defending their line Wigan went into the break with an 8-4 lead, some pushing and shoving as the sides went down the tunnel. It was a war of attrition as the two sides took the field for the second half. Less mistakes and more furious defences. A couple of Ratchford breaks came to nothing as Warrington tried to force the pass. An Escare break got Wigan close on sixty-five but an attempted drop-goal from the Frenchman didn’t trouble the sticks with a dreadful kick. When Bodene Thompson illegally stole the ball on seventy minutes, Tomkins missed the target from just inside the Wolves half. A head stitched Manfredi won the trophy for Wigan when he crossed in the right corner with three minutes on the clock taking a Tomkins miss-out pass to go in down the touchline. Tomkins was unable to convert from the touchline, but with just one hundred seconds left the win was sealed at 12-4.  Toby King had a try ruled out twenty seconds from the final hooter when he lost it over the line but it wasn’t going to influence the outcome. Wigan edged the position and possession and were more composed with the ball ensuring that they finished their sets deep inside Wolves terrritory. Some strange decisions on the last tackle from the Warrington play-makers saw a number of attacks fizzle out without any real threat to the Wigan line. It was far from a classic but the defensive effort from both sets of players cannot be denied. Wigan just deserved their win, lifting the trophy for a fifth time. Once again, it wasn’t Warringtons year, the only consolation being Stefan Ratchford picking up the Harry Sunderland Award as Man of the Match. Warriors: Tomkins S, Manfredi (2T), Gildart, Sarginson, Davies (T), Williams, Leuluai, Navarrete, Powell, Flower, Greenwood, Bateman, O’Loughlin.  Subs: Escare, Farrell, Sutton, Clubb. Wolves:Ratchford, Lineham, Goodwin, King T, Charnley (T), Brown, Roberts, Hill, Clark, Cooper, Thompson, Hughes, Westwood .  Subs: Philbin, Murdoch-Masila, King G, Patton. Referee: Robert Hicks. Half-Time: 8-4. Full-Time: 12-4. Attendance: 64,892.
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