Warrington 26-27 Wigan: Sam Tomkins' late drop goal secures Challenge Cup victory
Last Updated: 17/06/17 5:52pm
Returning star Sam Tomkins landed the decisive drop goal as Wigan edged out Warrington 27-26 to claim a place in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-finals.
The Warriors full-back Tomkins, making his first appearance since breaking his foot last September, kicked a critical one-pointer with seven minutes remaining at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Warrington, trailing by seven at this point, produced a grandstand finish with Kurt Gidley crossing to get within a point, but Stefan Ratchford and Declan Patton missed late kicks in a dramatic finale.
The heat was energy-sapping and contributed to an error-strewn contest but supporters were certainly not short-changed.
Wigan dominated early on with Joe Burgess scoring two early tries but they were matched by a Ryan Atkins double.
Liam Marshall, with his eighth try in three games against the Wolves, restored Wigan's lead but further tries were exchanged through Andre Savelio, John Bateman and Gidley before the nerve-jangling ending.
The pressure had been on both sides - and coaches Tony Smith and Shaun Wane - after dreadful sequences that had seen neither side win for more than a month.
Wigan were at least buoyed by the return of several stars, including marquee player Tomkins and forward Bateman after long lay-offs, and inspirational captain Sean O'Loughlin.
By contrast Warrington were forced to make a late change to their plans as Kevin Brown, who had been named in the team after apparently overcoming a foot injury, pulled out after the warm-up.
The stand-off was replaced in the side by 18th man Patton and the disruption may have contributed to the hosts' sluggish start.
Wigan made most of the early running and there was controversy in the opening minutes when Ratchford escaped serious punishment for appearing to trip Tomkins off the ball.
The visitors' opening try came from a swift break from deep inside their own half, but Warrington's defending was poor as O'Loughlin released Tomkins and Burgess sped over.
Again Warrington struggled to contain a Wigan attack as the visitors doubled their lead, although it required a stunning acrobatic finish from Burgess in the corner.
It might have been even worse for Warrington had Marshall managed to gather a Thomas Leuluai kick but the hosts eventually hit back.
Atkins did well to claim a high kick from Gidley and touch down and he followed up moments later by racing on to a well-weighted grubber from Patton.
Wigan immediately replied as Marshall, a player the Wolves must now be sick of the sight of, wriggled out of an Atkins tackle and raced over.
George Williams, who had converted all three tries, pushed the lead out to 20-12 with a penalty early in the second half but Warrington rallied.
Savelio crashed over from close range just before the hour and Patton, also accurate in front of goal, levelled the scores with a penalty.
Wigan made the next incursion when Bateman cut inside to score by the posts and Tomkins' drop goal added vital extra insurance. That point was needed after Gidley forced his way over.
Wigan then put the restart out on the full handing Ratchford a penalty chance to win the game. However, he pushed his effort just wide, as did Patton with a drop-goal attempt in the final seconds.