Warriors beaten in world thriller

Published: Saturday 21st February 2015 by The News Editor

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Brisbane Broncos made it 2-0 to the NRL in the new three-match World Club Series with a dramatic 14-12 golden-point extra-time win over Wigan in front of a 20,842 crowd at the DW Stadium.

Wigan looked to be down and out after spending virtually the entire second half on defence but Sydney-bound winger Joe Burgess made up for an error-strewn display with a last-gasp 80-metre try which Matty Smith goaled to level the scores in the last minute of normal time.

Smith had a chance to win it for the Warriors in extra time but he was short with a long-range drop goal attempt and the game was finally settled by a penalty from Broncos forward Corey Parker in the last minute of the first half.

With Warrington going down 18-12 to St George Illawarra in the opening game on Friday night, it will be up to champions St Helens to restore Super League’s pride when they take on South Sydney in the all-important World Club Challenge on Sunday night.

Members of Wigan’s victorious World Club Challenge team of 1994 provided a guard of honour for Shaun Wane’s men but they were unable to reproduce the heroics of Shaun Edwards and company despite a valiant effort on a glue-pot pitch against a Brisbane side containing nine international in their starting line-up.

Just like Warrington 24 hours earlier, Wigan – without skipper Sean O’Loughlin – gave their visitors an early helping hand.

Burgess, who has endured an unhappy start to his final season with Wigan, successfully diffused two early bombs from Ben Hunt but the second time lost the ball in Jordan Kahu’s tackle just short of his own line.

That presented Broncos captain Andrew McCullough with a gift-wrapped try, which was goaled by Parker.

It was 15 minutes before referee Phil Bentham, under the apparently more relaxed approach to these games, blew for the first penalty but he had his hands full trying to keep tempers in check.

Wigan responded splendidly to their early setback and, after Burgess was turned on his back by Justin Hodges, they drew level on 24 minutes when England second rower Liam Farrell raced onto George Williams’ grubber kick for a try which Smith converted.

Another blunder from Burgess meant Wigan were forced into some desperate defence but they held firm up to half-time, with the scores locked at 6-6.

The hapless Burgess put his side under more pressure early in the second half when he came up with a third handling error and he had to be grateful for yet more sterling defensive work from his team-mates.

Stalemate set in for a time but the Broncos looked ominous when stand-off Anthony Milford, profiting from good work down the middle from forwards Josh McGuire and Alex Glenn, twice slipped through the Warriors’ defensive line without being able to provide the finishing touches.

However, there was no stopping left winger Lachlan Maranta on 55 minutes when he took Hodges pass to touch down at the corner after Milford had pulled the Wigan defence out of position.

Parker was unable to add the goal but he was on target with a penalty on 67 minutes after the hard-working John Bateman was punished for a foul and Wigan were twice forced to scramble to prevent the dangerous Milford from increasing his side’s lead.

Both sets of players were out on their feet at the end as the heavy pitch began to take its toll and the last thing they wanted was extra time.

But, with time fast running out, Burgess found the energy to get around his man 20 metres out from his own line and, after sprinting clear, took a return pass from Williams to touch down for a glorious try.

Smith maintained his composure to level the scores with the angled conversion and that set up a frantic first period of extra time.

Hunt and Milford both failed with drop-goal attempts for the visitors and Smith was also off target but the game ended on an anti-climax when Wigan were pulled up for a ball steal on Parker 15 metres from their own line.

The drama did not end there for Wigan centre Anthony Gelling was sin-binned for charging down Parker’s penalty kick and was forced to watch from the sidelines as the Brisbane man coolly slotted over his second attempt.

Published: Saturday 21st February 2015 by The News Editor

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