Wigan became the first English rugby league winner of the World Club Challenge since 2012 and the first four-time champion after bowling over Cronulla 22-6 on Sunday.
Winger Joe Burgess, who struggled for game time at Sydney Roosters and South Sydney last year so returned home to Wigan, completed a hat trick of tries in the last minute at DW Stadium.
Wigan’s victory, following Warrington beating Brisbane 27-18 on Saturday, likely revived the World Club Series after Australian sides inflicted 3-0 sweeps of England’s best teams in the first two years of the expanded competition.
Wigan was appearing in its seventh challenge final, but hadn’t won it since 1994. Coach Shaun Wane tried to add motivation by bringing in teammates from the champion 1987 side to present the jerseys.
A Lewis Tierney intercept ultimately led to Burgess scoring the opening try with an acrobatic dive in the left corner, and Burgess’ second capped off a smart team move in the 22nd minute.
Morgan Escare’s conversion made it 10-0, which Wigan carried into the break after Cronulla had two tries disallowed.
Not long into the new half, centre Oliver Gildart, whose father Ian played in the ’87 side, finished off a break by Escare, who converted for 16-0.
It was too much for Cronulla, even though winger Jesse Ramien scored a converted try chasing Gerard Beale’s grubber into the in-goal an hour in.
Most of the crowd of 21,000 was on its feet applauding the certain result when, in the last minute, Burgess got a finger on another grubber kick behind the try-line in the last minute.