Salford failed to seal their first Wembley berth since 1969 as they narrowly lost out to Wigan at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
The Red Devils, who booked their highest ever Super League finish last weekend, found themselves 12-0 down inside the opening fifteen minutes however fought back to go into the break in the lead.
In a nip-and-tuck affair and despite some late pressure from Ian Watson’s men it was a Michael McIlorum try which spurred Wigan on to victory.
While an appearance at Wembley is now out of the question the Red Devils and Ian Watson featured in the club’s first semi-final for almost twenty years and, alongside their lofty league finish, now have the foundations in place going into the crucial super eights.
Wigan were in the ascendancy in the early stages as winger Tom Davies crossed twice but had both efforts ruled out by video referee Ben Thaler. Davies was first denied after putting a foot in touch before the second was cancelled out after a forward pass from Anthony Gelling.
However, the Warriors did take the lead when a quick tip on from Willie Isa allowed Oliver Gildart to go over. George Williams successfully converted before adding a penalty goal five minutes later to extend Wigan’s lead. Willie Isa went from provider to scorer moments later as he sliced through the Red Devils defence to score.
But, Salford soon hit back with some fantastic link-up play between Michael Dobson and Todd Carney. The Australian half found winger Greg Johnson who finished well in the corner to get the Red Devils back in the game. Dobson sunk the conversion from out wide.
It didn’t take long for Ian Watson’s men to then level the scores. Dobson was again involved as his low grubber kick was planted down by Tyrone McCarthy on his debut with his first touch in a Red shirt. The resulting conversion levelled the scores.
Salford continued to put pressure on the Warriors line following a 40-20 from Carney. Wigan soon found themselves down to twelve men as Sam Tomkins was sent to the bin for taking out Tyrone McCarthy off the ball.
Unfortunately, Salford couldn’t take advantage by crossing for a try but a Dobson penalty goal did ensure they went into the interval ahead.
Wigan started in an almost identical fashion to the first half as Joe Burgess raced fifty metres after Sam Tomkins’ initial break however a great last ditch effort from Niall Evalds prevented a try. But, Williams would level the scores midway through the half with a penalty goal.
Williams spurned an opportunity to put Wigan ahead following a high tackle from Lama Tasi but the Warriors did take the lead on the sixty-minute mark as a cut-out ball found Burgess who then kicked inside for Michael McIlorum who finished well. Williams converted.
Tomkins furthered Wigan’s lead with a drop-goal and despite some late pressure from the Red Devils it was Shaun Wane’s side who booked there place at Wembley when Gildart crossed for his second of the afternoon in the closing stages.
Salford: Evalds, Johnson, Welham, Sau, Vatuvei, Carney, Dobson, Tasi, Tomkins, Kopczak, Murdoch-Masila, Jones, Hauraki.
Interchanges: O’Brien, Krasniqi, McCarthy, Griffin.