Super League play-offs: Warrington 22-19 Widnes

Wolves coach never thought game was lost
Super League elimination final
Warrington Wolves (6) 22
Tries: Monaghan 3, Evans Goals: Ratchford 3
Widnes Vikings (19) 19
Tries: Flynn 2, Hanbury Goals: Tickle 3 Drop goal: Brown

Joel Monaghan scored a hat-trick of tries to help Warrington fight back from 18-0 down to end Widnes' first Super League play-off campaign.

Kevin Brown created three Vikings tries, twice kicking for Paddy Flynn to score before setting up Rhys Hanbury.

Wolves hit back with a converted Joel Monaghan try, only for Brown to slot a drop-goal to make it 19-6 at half-time.

Monaghan touched down either side of Rhys Evans' try to complete an astonishing elimination final win.

Victory sees last year's Grand Final runners-up progress to a preliminary semi-final eliminator against Castleford on Thursday after the Tigers were heavily beaten by St Helens on Friday.

Wolves's Super League form
1 Aug: W 26-24 v Catalan Dragons (A)
15 Aug: W 48-10 v Castleford Tigers (H)
28 Aug: D 24-24 v Huddersfield Giants (H)
4 Sep: W 39-12 v St Helens (A)
11 Sep: L 20-24 v Wigan Warriors (A)
20 Sep: W 22-19 v Widnes Vikings (H)

Play-off debutants Widnes pinned the hosts back early on, with consecutive sets of six on Warrington's line eventually finishing with Flynn grounding a deft Kevin Brown grubber kick before the ball ran dead into touch.

Just as the opening try was studied on video replays, Flynn's second score from another neat kick from Brown went to the TMO before being awarded on nine minutes.

The stunned Wire managed to recover and push the Vikings back onto their line, only for Micky Higham to knock-on right in front of the sticks to end what was their first seriously threatening spell.

Jon Clarke
Widnes captain Jon Clarke has retired after their elimination final loss to Warrington

Widnes wasted a sweeping move that ended with a Cameron Phelps fumble before Danny Tickle failed to kick a 45-metre penalty, having previously converted both of the visitors' tries.

Hanbury got on the inside of Brown and burst through some poor defending to run in Widnes' third try, with Tickle adding the extras as the little-fancied Vikings built a deserved 18-0 lead.

Warrington's response came from Monaghan, Super League's leading try scorer of 2014, who finished off a flowing move in the corner.

Brown ensured Widnes finished the half on a positive by landing a drop-goal, but it was the Wolves who came out strongest after the interval.

While Wolves' Chris Bridge seemed to struggle with a hamstring complaint during the interval, the centre's flick found Monaghan out wide to spin powerfully over the line.

Hanbury's failure to deal with a seemingly pressure-free high ball gave Wolves the field position to mount their next scoring raid, Evans going over in the corner. Stefan Ratchford teed up his third conversion to make it 19-18.

Widnes were exposed out wide once more as Monaghan again found himself on the outside of Bridge to rush over for his third try.

Rise of the Vikings
2012: Return to British rugby league's top flight after losing their place in 2005. Widnes struggle with their re-introduction, finishing bottom of the table with only six of their 27 league matches.
2013: Improved to finish 10th in the table, winning 10 and drawing two Super League matches.
2014: Fell one win short of a Wembley final in the Challenge Cup. Reach the Super League play-offs for the first time by finishing eighth in the table with 13 wins and one draw from 27 games.

A heavy hit on Warrington's Matthew Russell by Macgraff Leuluai saw the game stopped as the full-back received lengthy treatment on a head injury.

Russell left the game on a stretcher and was taken to hospital with concussion, having also lost teeth and sustained a broken nose in the collision.

Play resumed with Monaghan threatening to go over again but remarkably Hanbury chased the winger down, having initially thrown the pass for the Australian to intercept.

In a tense finish littered by errors from both sides, Widnes refused to let Ryan Atkins put the result beyond doubt, holding the centre up on the try-line.

Warrington Wolves coach Tony Smith:

"I was really happy how the team performed second half and they should be proud of themselves.

"At no stage did we feel the game was ever going to be lost even at 18-0 down. We knew when we had the ball and put some plays on and make them do some work we could score some tries and our defence also improved when we applied pressure with the ball.

"We got the momentum right from the onset of the second half and built the game like we would like to have done in the first half and once we did that it was hard for Widnes to stop us."

"Matty Russell was straight into an ambulance and is pretty smashed up. At the minimum he is going to lose some teeth, his nose is smashed and he was unconscious for a long time and we are concerned."

Widnes Viking coach Denis Betts:

"It was a performance high on effort and energy - we would just liked to have had that closure.

"We let them in the door just before half-time with an error, which we were unable to defend and they scored in the corner. That gave them a lift and they came out in the second half and performed really well.

"The boys are massively disappointed, they worked hard for each other and hard enough to get the result and it's a tough one to take."

Warrington Wolves: Russell; J. Monaghan, C. Bridge, Atkins, R. Evans; O'Brien, Myler; Hill, Higham, Harrison, Laithwaite, Waterhouse, Ratchford.

Replacements: M. Monaghan, Asotasi, Currie, England.

Widnes Vikings: Hanbury; Flynn, Dean, Phelps, Ah Van; Brown, Mellor; O'Carroll, Clarke, Cahill, Galea, Tickle, Leuluai.

Replacements: Isa, Joseph, White, Gerrard.

Referee: Ben Thaler (RFL)

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