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C Cup R4: Wigan v
Wigan cast aside their engage Super League blues with a dramatic fightback to clinch a place in the last 16 of the Powergen Challenge Cup courtesy of a 32-22 win over Wakefield.
One-time Cup kings Wigan, bottom of the table after winning just one of their opening seven games, looked to be heading out of the famous knockout tournament when they trailed 22-6 just before half-time.
But they got their act together, inspired by skipper Sean O?Loughlin and the experienced Dennis Moran, to run in 26 unanswered points and book their place in Tuesday?s fifth-round draw.
The win will lift the pressure on coach Ian Millward but increase the gloom at Belle Vue, where the Wildcats let slip a 21-0 lead against Warrington a week earlier.
Wigan, who gave a debut to 18-year-old prop Eamonn O?Carroll, now have seven weeks to prepare for their next Cup task and will be hoping this result can kick-start their League campaign, starting with another trip to Belle Vue next Friday.
Wakefield, who like Wigan were without five regulars through injury, made good use of the stiff breeze to build a 16-point lead but the turning point came just before the break thanks to an act of petulance.
The Wildcats had defended stoically to force a handover near their own line but full-back Colum Halpenny, with an eye on half-time, tossed the ball away to waste time and was rightly penalised by referee Karl Kirkpatrick.
Wigan ran the ball and full-back Chris Ashton took Bryan Fletcher?s pass to go through a gap in the home defence for a try which gave his side a lifeline.
Ashton had earlier gifted Wakefield a score when he failed to gather Jamie Rooney?s grubber kick and substitute Paul White pounced for his second try in five minutes.
White had finished off a fine break by fellow substitute Mark Applegarth to grab his first while scrum-half Sam Obst scored one try with a jinking run and created another for second rower Jamie Field with a pinpoint kick.
Wigan created several chances, particularly through the darting runs from dummy half by Mick Higham, but ruined most of them through slipshod handling in the difficult conditions.
Higham scored the other first-half try, his first for the Warriors, after Sean O?Loughlin?s kick had eluded Wakefield centre Jason Demetriou.
But it was a different story in the second half as O?Loughlin and Moran seized the initiative.
O?Loughlin went over within 90 seconds of the restart, brushing off the attempted tackle from Field, and when Moran successfully chased his own kick to the line it brought the scores level.
Rooney tried to break the deadlock with a drop goal which sailed wide and Wigan edged in front for the first time on 65 minutes with a penalty from Tickle after Field had been punished for interference at the play-the-ball.
Wakefield left winger Semi Tadulala crossed on 68 minutes but was brought back for a forward pass earlier in the move and, at the other end, Wigan?s Pat Richards dropped the ball with the line open.
The tie was finally settled through another comedy of errors, with Tadulala failing to clear the danger caused by Moran?s kick and centre David Vaealiki pounced on the loose ball to score.
Wakefield: (22) 22
Tries: Field, Obst, White 2
Goals: Rooney 3
Wigan: (12) 32
Try: Higham, Ashton, O?Loughlin, Moran Vaealiki
Goals: Tickle 3, Godwin, Richards 2
Wakefield: Halpenny, Buchanan, Demetriou, Whittle, Tadulala, Rooney, Obst, Griffin, March, Korkidas, Elima, J. Field, Betham. Replacements: White, Wrench, Applegarth, Catic.
Wigan: Ashton, Calderwood, Vaealiki, Richards, Dallas, Brown, Moran, Seu Seu, Higham, Hargreaves, Tickle, Fletcher,O?Loughlin. Replacements: Prescott, O?Carroll, Godwin, Tomkins.
Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington)