Shaun Wane will take a lifetime of memories from his 30 years with Wigan.
His last may be one of his best. The 52-year-old will clear his desk this week with a heavy heart.
He may also do so with a smile on his face after his men overcame perennial bridesmaids Warrington Wolves to win a Grand Final high on intensity but low on entertainment.
Wigan celebrate an emotional victory in the Grand Final at Old Trafford on Saturday
Former Wigan winger Josh Charnley slid over in the corner to make it 4-0 to the Wolves
Two tries from wing Dom Manfredi, who had a combined two years out of the game thanks to back-to-back cruel injuries, and a ferocious display of defence were enough to leave Wane with the perfect leaving card.
For Warrington, a 63-year wait for a top flight title continues. The last time the Wire won the big trophy the US entered into its conflict in Vietnam, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus and Ruth Ellis became the final woman to receive the death penalty in the UK. It is some drought for one of the sport’s staples.
Aussie coach Steve Price came here with a point to prove to those back home after losing his job at St George-Illawarra. In his first season he has taken the perennial underachievers to the game’s big two fixtures.
Wigan were level after classy play by Thomas Leuluai and Oliver Gildart put Dom Manfredi over
At Wembley’s Challenge Cup Final they were defeated by Catalans Dragons. At least he will have no trouble motivating them when they return for pre-season training.
Fourteen minutes of bruising big hits had elapsed before the deadlock was broken when wing Josh Charnley finished an overlap out wide on the right in front of a delighted Stretford End, which hosted the majority of the Warrington contingent. It was the former Wigan man’s 16th score of the season following his return from an 18-month stint in union with Sale Sharks.
Charnley’s last act at this venue was to score the winning try for Wigan against Warrington. He could consider himself forgiven. Then came a moment more suited to the football usually hosted here, when Wigan full-back Sam Tomkins cynically tripped Wire centre Bryson Goodwin as he threatened to make a break. Tomkins was fortunate to receive a caution rather than a card.
A needless late hit from forward Bodene Thompson on scrum-half Tommy Leuluai set Wigan up with the chance to respond – and they did so when Manfredi crashed over in the corner after nifty footwork from centre Oliver Gildart took a number of Warrington defenders out of the equation. Tomkins’s attempted conversion was as ugly as his earlier trip and the score was locked at 4-4.
Wigan hit the front courtesy of Tom Davies’ finish from George Williams’ clever kick
On 31 minutes, Wigan were in front when stand off George Williams spotted a gap behind the Warrington line, dinked a pinpoint grubber kick to the corner and sprinting wing Tom Davies won the footrace before crashing down the Old Trafford moat with Tomkins again unable to add the extras.
The departing star, presumably a man who likes to live life on the edge, dodged another card when he caught the head of Wire hooker Daryl Clark with his knee and his team had a four-point lead at the hooter. The action, however, was not over.
As the players headed off the field, with what appeared to be a plastic bottle hurled at Wigan’s group from the stand, Goodwin shoved Morgan Escare – something which angered his fellow Frenchman Romain Navarrete who sprinted across to defend his compatriot.
The ensuing melee had the red plastic walls of the tunnel bouncing. Unfortunately, the view was blocked – but you would imagine it was a little feistier in there than Pizzagate, all those years ago.
Wigan winger Manfredi had to receive treatment for a nasty cut above his eye
Battle resumed in the second-half, with bone-crunching collisions drawing gasps from a crowd of 64,892 as both sides fought for superiority. Charnley was the latest to benefit from laissez-faire referee Rob Hicks when he appeared to boot Escare in the face but remained on the field.
With defences on top, Warrington’s impressive full-back Stefan Ratchford twice found a way through the cherry-and-white wall but was stopped in his tracks. The pendulum continued to swing. With points at a premium, Escare scuffed an attempted drop goal wide before Wire scrum-half Tyrone Roberts failed to grasp a Ben Murdoch-Masila pass with the line in sight.
Tomkins missed a penalty from around halfway before, with three minutes to go, it was game over. With Wire out on their feet Wigan scented blood and got it when Tomkins long pass found Manfredi, with head bandaged from an earlier clash, dived over.
Wigan Warriors’ Sam Tomkins (left) clashes with Warrington’s Daryl Clark at Old Trafford
Tomkins was again unsuccessful but it was of no matter. Wane is as Wigan as pies, mint balls and rugby league.
Brought up 250 yards away from the DW Stadium, he served firstly as a player and then, as coach, has presided over the club’s most successful era since their 1990s pomp. He goes to take up a part-time role with the Scottish RFU, while Tomkins, John Bateman and Sutton both ended their time at the club. As captain Sean O’Loughlin joked earlier this week: ‘We’ll be having leaving dos until Christmas.’
There was a victory party to come first.
Since its inception there have only been four names on the cup – Wigan, Leeds, St Helens and Bradford. There will be no new one this year.
Wigan head coach Shaun Wane led his team out for the final time in the Grand Final
To be continued
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