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Warriors settle for second
Another wooden spoon signals end of an era
Crusaders' Super League adventure ended in predictable defeat at Wigan although the Welsh side put up a valiant display against the champions.
With Warrington winning at Hull, top spot eluded Wigan, while Wakefield's victory over Bradford condemned Crusaders to their second wooden spoon in three seasons.
It was a sad way for the Wrexham club to bow out of Super League, although they produced a spirited performance in front of a vociferous 600-strong travelling support.
A second-place finish means Wigan will start their play-offs with a tie against arch rivals St Helens, a repeat of last year's Grand Final, at the DW Stadium next weekend, but they could be without hooker Thomas Leuluai who went off early in the match with a knee injury.
The Warriors made the perfect start with a third-minute try from Australian half-back Brett Finch, who jinked his way over for a solo score, with Pat Richards kicking the first of seven goals.
Finch then got his half-back partner Paul Deacon into a gap only for the ball to come loose in full-back Clinton Schifcofske's last-ditch tackle.
Crusaders looked lively in the early stages and, despite conceding a string of penalties, levelled the scores when stand-off Lloyd White got Peter Lupton charging over for a try midway through the first half, with Schifcofske adding the goal.
Wigan were rocked by the enthusiasm of their visitors and it took a flash of trademark brilliance from Sam Tomkins to kick-start their performance.
He demonstrated why he is the best broken-field runner in Super League with a mazy run from his own 20-metre line and, after waiting for the support to arrive, watched Finch combine with Joel Tomkins to allow Josh Charnley to produce a devastating finish for his 24th try of the season.
The Warriors added another try before half-time through second rower Ryan Hoffman and it took them just 90 seconds of the second half to add to another.
Tomkins tracked crossfield and then doubled back on himself, but substitute forward Liam Farrell had more success with the more direct route from the next play, bumping off four defenders to power over for a deserved try.
Charnley came up with another strong finish, taking Sam Tomkins' long pass to power over for his second try, and three minutes later Richards opened his account for the night at the other corner after more involvement by the full-back.
Crusaders wilted but they never gave up and it needed a brave last-ditch tackle from Sam Tomkins to deny substitute Andy Bracek a try, but they gained some reward when Bradford-bound half-back Jarrod Sammut snapped up a stray Wigan pass and went 70 metres for a consolation try.
Wigan were in total control by then, however, and more smart handling from Finch crafted a try for Joel Tomkins.Super League. Click here to bet.
Super League Table
|9||Hull K R||27||23|
|10||Salford Red Devils||27||23|
|13||Bradford Bulls *||27||10|
|First Utility Super League|
|Thursday 5th February|
|20:00||Widnes vs Wigan|
|Friday 6th February|
|20:00||St Helens vs Catalans Dragons|
|Saturday 7th February|
|15:00||Warrington Wolves vs Salford Red Devils|
|Sunday 8th February|
|15:00||Huddersfield vs Hull|
|15:00||Hull K R vs Leeds|
|15:30||Castleford vs Wakefield|
|Thursday 12th February|
|20:00||Salford vs St Helens|
|Friday 13th February|
|20:00||Hull vs Warrington|
|20:00||Leeds vs Widnes|
|20:00||Wigan vs Huddersfield|
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