Former New Zealand Warriors icon Manu Vatuvei was denied the chance to play in a Challenge Cup final as Wigan came from behind to claim a 27-14 semi-final victory over Salford today.
Vatuvei made his debut on the wing for Salford at Warrington's Halliwell Jones Stadium with the Red Devils aiming for their first trip to Wembley for 48 years when they came from 12-0 down to lead 14-12 at halftime.
However, Wigan's big-game players - including Vatuvei's former Warriors teammates Thomas Leuluai and Sam Tomkins - came to the fore as the Super League champions earned a Wembley showdown with Hull on August 26.
Salford, making light of their dismal league form that has seen them win just one of their last seven matches, played their part in a full-blooded clash, with Tyrone McCarthy scoring a try on debut and Vatuvei also catching the eye after a nervous start.
Wigan winger Tom Davies had two tries disallowed inside the first five minutes, one for a foot in touch and the other for a forward pass, but it only delayed the inevitable.
Five-eighth George Williams and Leuluai combined to get centre Oliver Gildart striding through a gap for the first score and sniping runs from Tomkins and John Bateman created the position for second rower Willie Isa to grab his first try of the season.
Williams added one conversion and kicked a penalty as the Warriors led 12-0 after 16 minutes.
Former Cronulla NRL bad boy Todd Carney sparked the Salford fightback on 23 minutes when winger Greg Johnson scored in the corner. Johnson then broke out of defence to create the position for McCarthy to touch down Dobson's grubber kick and the game was turned on its head as Dobson levelled the scores before putting Salford in front with a penalty as Tomkins was sent to the sin bin.
Williams brought the scores level with a penalty after having the ball stolen during one of his trademark forceful runs and then missed a chance to restore the lead when he was wide with a third attempt.
However, Wigan's persistence paid off on the hour when Williams' cut-out pass freed Burgess and his inside kick bounced kindly for hooker Michael McIlorum, who was just back on the field after being spelled.
Williams kicked his fourth goal to make it 20-14 and Tomkins put two scores between the sides with a drop goal. When Gildart went over for his second try late in the game the result was sealed.
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Wigan 27 (Gildart 2, Isa, McIlorum tries, Williams 5 goals, Tomkins drop goal)
Salford 14 (Johnson, McCarthy tries, Dobson 3 goals)