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2nd April 1999: Wigan 12 St Helens 14

Wigan Warriors v St Helens - JJB Sports Super League IV Round 3
Friday 2nd April 1999. Kick Off 12:05pm at Central Park

Well what can be said about the game of the weekend at Central Park that no one has already said during the second half. Wigan and Saints fought hard in the first half, but Wigan were under a lot of pressure from a strong Saint attack and also a very uneven penalty count be referee Cummings. In fact the penalty count was not only very heavily in saints favour but very frequently occurred in the Wigan half and on the 5th tackle. That made it Wigan defending for most of the first half and consequently must have had an effect on the player's fatigue in the second half. Well that's the only explanation for the woeful tackling and very slow attacks Wigan showed in the second half. . Saints victory was only their second in the last 16-visits to Central Park

Wigan's star man Florimo got the first try from a great break after just 11 gruelling minutes, and as he darted through a gap Wigan looked dangerous in this local derby game. Saints needed a little luck for their first try as a kick through from Martyn rebounded off Simon Haughton and Martyn re-gathered the ball. He passed the ball to Newlove, and as the covering Centre Connolly slipped he sprinted through to offload to wingman Sullivan who touched down in the corner.

Sullivan's biggest contribution to the game was to twice run though on the outside for St Helens, and when one was ruled out by the video referee courtesy of touching the corner flag inches before grounding the ball, his other effort was rewarded with a try despite Radlinski diving across to cover the gap. Poor Jason Robinson was left as a sole defender facing the break by Newlove and Sullivan, which resulted in a try. Newlove was largely quiet during the game as usual, but was the provider for Sullivan's try.

An early second half try from Full back Atcheson was dubious to say the least, and referee Cummings never even went to the video ref to see if Atcheson was offside when Sean Long kicked the ball through from a scrum. Not so when Moore scored from a kick through for Wigan, referee Cummings didn't hesitate in asking the video referee to look for Moore being offside. Double standards, I wouldn't like to say but 12,000 Wigan fans would for sure.

Ironically the oldest man on the pitch, Greg Florimo, was the sole star in the Wigan line up as the other sixteen team members failed to raise to the occasion, much to the disappointment of the huge 16,000 crowd. Florimo really did the mans share of the work in tackling, organising and running clean breaks. It's a pity that he didn't have the support he needed. The Saints pack took full advantage of this and even Iro and big wingman Tuilagi were able to pick their way through the Wigan line with ease. There were the usual flashes of brilliance from Robinson, Johnson and Gilmour, but it was a case of too little and not often enough for Wigan.

Many would have us believe that Wigan's captain Andy Farrell under performed and so the team under performed. As we all know there is another 16-players on the team and they must all work together as a team to win crucial games. The only thing Farrell can be blamed for is for not taking the two points from kickable penalties twice, once in each half. Instead Farrell went for the 4 points and the team failed to deliver. Alright so those 4 points from the two kicks might have won Wigan the game at the end of the day, but Saints were just as likely to raise their game and get a further try to take the game from Wigan. It was destined that Saints would win this game, and they wanted to win more that Wigan.

In all this was a poor effort by the referee Cummings and the linesmen also. Former Wigan halfback Sean Long tormented his former team mates and insisted in punching, interfering and lying on in all his tackles. This culminated in his head-but of Mark Reber in the first half in back play. Now all credit must go to Reber for not raising to the bait of Long niggling him for the first 15 minutes of the game. He just pushed off Long and carried on with the game. But the linesman and referee failed to cat on this, which was clearly seen by the 12,000 Wigan fans on the ground. How on earth the officials missed it is a complete mystery as it was just after a play-the-ball and in clear view. Wigan fans didn't really have a Saints player to hate and boo at before this game, but you can bet Long will be top of the list from now on. If I were a Central Park official you can bet I would be writing to RLHQ at Leeds and getting evidence from Sky Sports to cite Long with assault. In fact whilst we are in referee knocking mode it must be said that a couple of offences of high tackles by Saints on Wigan players were unpunished and a couple of more that were penalised didn't even get out on report, as they deserved to be. In the last few minutes Wigan launched an attack and the ball was stolen from the Wigan player in a three-man tackle, and the referee waved play-on, instead of giving a kickable penalty.

But saying all of this does not detract from the fact that Saints desired the win far more than Wigan, and had Moore's try six-minutes from the end won the game for Wigan it could have been a get-out-of-jail for Wigan and against the run of play. The referee should also have red carded full back Atchison for the flop on Moore after he grounded the ball and injured Moore. The injury turned out to be a cracked rib and will probably keep Moore out for a few weeks. But thankfully for Saints the woeful tackling from Wigan allowed Centre Iro to force his way over the line a couple of minutes from time with four Wigan tackles in attendance. That really summed up Wigan's second half when all they had to do was defend well for 5 minutes and take the two points from Saints.

Hanley coached the winning mood into Saints and his return to Central Park was more than happy. A few times the sky cameras showed his familiar grin and few Wigan fans would begrudge Hanley that. With Saints in this mood what team would swap places with Bradford on Monday to face St Helens at Knowsley road? Saints deserved to win and Wigan had better buck up their ideas of Wakefield were not to make a good showing against them on Monday. Monie will have Betts back in the starting line up and that will bolster the second row somewhat. Hopefully Monie will also use this game to wield the axe and make changes. But with a very limited squad to choose from Monie will not be able to drop as many first team players as he would have done in his last stint at Central Park, and maybe that's part of the problem. The first 17 top players at Wigan are almost guaranteed a place each week and competition fort places is not a driving force anymore. Now the desire to win and pure pride must take over from the fear of being dropped and sold on to motivate a player in the Wigan team. The final point to take from the game is that if Wigan can play this badly and still loose by only two points to St Helens, then there's hope yet. Let's just hope it doesn't take one loss to make Wigan play well and win the next game, we wouldn't do very well on 15 league wins for the season.

Wigan:- Kris Radlinski, Jason Robinson, Gary Connolly, Danny Moore, Paul Johnson, Greg Florimo, Mark Reber, Terry O'Connor, Mick Cassidy, Neil Cowie, Simon Haughton, Lee Gilmour, Andy Farrell (Capt.)
Subs:- Brett Goldspink, Tony Mestrov, Dwane West, Rob Ball.
Scorers:-
Tries: Florimo(11), Moore(72).
Goals: Farrell (2)

St Helens:- Paul Atcheson, Fereti Tuilagi, Kevin Iro, Paul Newlove, Anthony Sullivan, Tommy Martin, Sean Long, Julian O'Neil, Keiron Cunningham, Sonny Nickle, Apollo Perelini, Mark Edmondson, Paul Sculthorpe (Capt.)
Subs:- Chris Smith, Anthony Stewart, Paul Wellans, Tim Jonkers.
Scorers:-
Tries: Sullivan(39), Atcheson(42), Iro(74)
Goals: Martyn (1)

Other Information

Attendance: 16,283
Referee: Stuart Cummings
Pitch: Damp
Weather: Hot and Still
Wigan Man of the match: Greg Florimo

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