Magnificent Rovers gave cup holders Wigan big scare

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COURAGEOUS Featherstone Rovers made Challenge Cup holders Wigan Warriors fight all the way in Friday's fifth round tie at Bigfellas Stadium.

After beating Super League neighbours Castleford 23-16 in the last round, battling Rovers twice held the lead against star-studded Wigan before eventually losing 32-16.

The Championship part-timers deserved all the plaudits for another tremendous defensive display.

They managed to keep a tight rein on danger man Sam Tomkins and were still in the hunt until Warriors winger Josh Charnley went over for his 16th try of the season on 64 minutes to enable coach Shaun Wane to breathe easily.

Second-rower Gareth Hock then made sure two minutes from the end with his second try of the match but Rovers coach Daryl Powell will be mightily proud of his players' efforts especially after they were handicapped in the second-half by injuries to try scorers Ian Hardman (pictured) and Tommy Saxton.

The travelling Wigan fans sensed their team were in for a tricky night when forwards Jeff Lima and Harrison Hansen came up with early handling errors to put them under pressure.

Yet the holders went in front after only three minutes with a try from impressive skipper Sean O'Loughlin after Featherstone stand-off Kyle Briggs shot out of the defensive line in a vain attempt to intercept Brett Finch's pass.

Tomkins' successful conversion made it 6-0 but Rovers, who again demonstrated their ability to compete with the best, stung the holders with two tries in three minutes to take the lead.

Another handling error, this time from cup debutant Anthony Gelling, gifted the home side a perfect attacking position and Jon Hepworth reacted quickly to scoop on the loose ball for Liam Finn and Greg Worthington to get winger Saxton over at the corner.

Wigan had barely recovered from that shock when former St Helens full-back Hardman timed his run to perfection to touch down Finn's precision grubber kick to the line.

Finn's goal made it 10-6 but Wigan responded immediately to level, with centre Darrell Goulding taking O'Loughlin's pass to cross at the corner.

Wigan, who lost Hansen with a badly-cut face after he came off worst from a clash of heads with Rovers captain Stuart Dickens, had a Gelling try disallowed for obstruction and they slipped 12-10 behind after Finn put over a penalty.

The Warriors twice declined chances to equalise by running penalties within kicking range and the gamble paid off in first-half stoppage time when Hock ran at speed onto Finch's neat pass to cross for a 20-metre try.

Charnley added the goal to edge the visitors into a 16-12 half-time lead and Rovers were forced to reshuffle early in the second half after losing Saxton and Hardman to injury.

With O'Loughlin setting a superb lead, Wigan gradually got on top against visibly tiring opponents.

Charnley was thrown back from the line but the pressure finally told when scrum-half Thomas Leuluai stretched out of Jon Grayshon's tackle to touch down for a crucial score.

Charnley's touchline goal opened up a 10-point lead but Featherstone summoned up one last effort to keep their hopes alive.

Finn appeared to illegally steal the ball from Finch but referee Richard Silverwood was unsighted and the scrum-half raced 60 metres downfield to set up the position for Sam Smeaton to send his winger Gareth Raynor over for his side's third try.

Finn missed the conversion to leave his side trailing by six points and Charnley made sure of Wigan's safe passage on 64 minutes when he took Leulaui's long pass to cross at the corner.

Hock's second try rubbed salt into Featherstone's wounds, with Charnley kicking his third goal.