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The eagerly anticipated clash between the northern and southern hemispheres took place at a packed DW Stadium as the Wigan Warriors played hosts to the NRL Champions the Penrith Panthers who were keen to avenge last years loss to St Helens and set the record straight.

The bookies had given the Australians a six-point handicap on the coupon and most pundits were calling the game in favour of the Panthers, but Wigan were quietly confident that a partisan crowd and home advantage could bring them home with a historic win, their first since they beat Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in 2017 and their fifth World Club Challenge win.

The ‘Best Club Side in the World’ title was up for grabs, and both sides desperately wanted it.

The sides were at each other’s throats within thirty seconds after Willie Isa failed to play the ball correctly.

Penrith tried running the ball on the last tackle on a couple of occasions in an opening eight minutes which they dominated, but the Wigan defence was up to the challenge. On their first real attack of the game Abbas Miski took a tremendous pass from Bevan French to cross in the corner and open the scoring in front of Wigans jubilant fans. Harry Smith was wide with the conversion attempt, Wigan with a 4-0 lead with ten minutes on the clock.

Brilliant Wigan defence denied Brian To’o on fifteen minutes as he was hauled down a metre short on the last tackle. Wigan were certainly holding their own while Penrith seemed devoid of any last tackle plays, dying with the ball and conceding the handover, it was so consistent as to appear to be a Panthers tactic.

Penrith were level on twenty-six after a high kick to the corner caused confusion in the Wigan defence with Kenny collecting the loose ball and passing inside to Nathan Cleary to go in under the sticks. Cleary added the conversion for a 6-4 lead.

Wigan struck back on thirty-two as they went down the right-hand side with fast hands inside allowing Kruise Leeming to take the final pass and dive over without a Penrith hand laid on him. Smith added the conversion for a 10-6 lead to the Cherry and Whites.

A minute out from the half time break Dylan Edwards pushed his way over with Field and Farrell attached but forced the ball onto the ground for the score levelling try. Cleary added a simple conversion for 12-10 to the Panthers after an enthralling first forty.

Twelve minutes after the restart the never say die attitude from Wigan saw Jake Wardle spin out of a tackle and lunge for the line on the last tackle. Referee Moore consulted the video referee who couldn’t overrule his on-field TRY decision. Harry Smith added the conversion for 16-12.

A superb chase and tackle from Jai Field as Taylor May went for the line saw the Wigan man drag the Panther into touch a metre short of the try line which meant that the Warriors headed into the last ten minutes with a four-point advantage on the scoreboard.

On seventy-one it looked like French had sealed the win as he chased down a Smith kick to collect ten metres out and score, but he went a little too early and the score was denied by the video official.

On the final hooter Penrith made one final play for the score with May the one to dive for the line. The referee sent the decision to the video referee as a NO TRY and he couldn’t find any evidence to over-rule that call. The final whistle was blown and Wigan were World Club Champions, Penrith returning home to Australia still without a win in the World Club Championships after four attempts.

There were occasions when Wigan rode their luck and got the best of some 50:50 decisions but in the end they were deserving winners after a total performance in a great atmosphere against Australia’s best. A night of pride for Wigan, and a night of pride for Super League.

Wigan Warriors: Field, Miski (T), Keighran, Wardle (T), Marshall, French, Smith (2G), Cooper, O’Neill, Byrne, Isa, Farrell, Ellis. Subs: Mago, Leeming (T), Dupree, Hill. 18th Man: Eckersley.

Penrith Panthers: Edwards (T), Turuva, Tago, May, To’o, Cole, Cleary (T, 2G), Leota, Kenny, Fisher-Harris, Garner, Martin, Yeo.  Subs: Peachey, Smith, Henry, Eisenhuth. 18th Man: Schneider.

Half-Time: 10-12.

Full-Time: 16-12.

Score Progression: 4-0, 4-4, 4-6, 8-6, 10-6, 10-10, 10-12 : HT: 14-12, 16-12 :FT.

Lead Exchanges: Wigan – Square – Penrith – Wigan – Square – Penrith - Wigan.

Referee:  Liam Moore.

Attendance: 24,091.

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Posted by RLFANS News Hound on Sat 24th Feb 2024 9:57 PM | Views : 4277 | Replies : 5 | BACK TO STORIES