Richards inspires Wigan to Grand Final victory
A general view of Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north-west England on December 10, 2011
New South Wales-born Ireland international Richards scored 14 points in all on his final Wigan appearance before leaving for Australia, as the Cherry and Whites overcame a 16-2 deficit against a shell-shocked Warrington Wolves.
In a true game of two halves, tries from Michael McIlorum, Josh Charnley, Blake Green and finally Richards – after Darrell Goulding had pulled one back just before half-time – inspired Wigan to victory and the first Challenge Cup and Grand Final double for seven years.
The Wolves had earlier looked in total control as Simon Grix, Joel Monaghan and Ben Westwood all scored, but a stunning second-half performance from Wigan and injuries to Stefan Ratchford and Monaghan meant they lost at Old Trafford for the second consecutive year.
Wigan applied the early pressure, attacking towards their own fans, and only Chris Riley’s crucial touch denied the Cherry and Whites on six minutes when they had numbers on the right-wing.
From the resultant scrum, New Zealand-bound Sam Tomkins’ offload set Goulding up, but he was held up just before the whitewash.
At the other end former Joel Monaghan was just unable to gather Lee Briers’ tenth-minute crossfield kick, under pressure from Richards on the line.
But just moments later Richards broke the deadlock with a 42-metre penalty.
The Wolves took the lead on 21 minutes however, Monaghan this time outjumping Richards to gather Briers’ precise crossfield kick and touched down.
Ratchford missed the difficult conversion but from the restart Richards kicked straight out and the Wire took full advantage – Grix bulldozing his way over before Ratchford converted.
Four minutes later, Warrington were further ahead after England winger Charnley failed to gather a high kick inside his own half.
From the resultant set of six the Wolves piled forward and Briers delayed his pass perfectly to set Westwood up for the try – Ratchford again making no mistake with the extras.
A lengthy delay ensued just minutes before the interval as Monaghan received lengthy treatment after being knocked cold attempting a tackle.
When play finally restarted, Goulding capped a flowing move by scoring the Warriors’ first try of the match on the right-wing although Richards dragged the conversion wide.
Eight minutes after the restart they struck again, as McIlorum dummied his way between two tackles to score, and Richards this time added the conversion.
And the Warriors comeback was completed by Super League record try scorer Charnley, as he raced on to Matty Smith’s grubber kick on 53 minutes to score.
Charnley could have added a second just three minutes later but knocked on in sight of the line as the Wigan continued to pile the pressure on.
Warrington were by this time devoid of Ratchford after a bad tackle forced him off – and simply couldn't cope as Green burst through Adrian Morley’s tackle to score on 65 minutes – Richards converting.
And Richards capped the comeback – receiving captain Sean O’Loughlin’s pass to score in the corner before kicking a superb conversion.