Jason Robinson, one of Wigan's modern-day legends, helped
pay a fitting tribute to his illustrious predecessors as rugby league bade
a fond farewell to Central Park yesterday. The diminutive Great Britain
right-winger produced one of his finest performances on a day rich in
nostalgia and emotion as Wigan's famous ground staged the last match of
its 97-year existence.
Asked who wrote his script for the fairytale ending, born-again Christian
Robinson said: "The man upstairs."
He added: "It will go down as one of my best memories. It is on your mind
about scoring tries. The forwards worked hard and I managed to finish
Central Park will shortly make way for a supermarket. But that will not
erase memories of a glorious past. A capacity 18,000 crowd witnessed a
parade of legends before kick-off. And Billy Boston, Eric Ashton and
company would have been proud of the deeds of present-day internationals
Andy Farrell, Gary Connolly and Robinson.
It was Robinson who set the tone for a pulsating encounter by creating a
fourth-minute try for Denis Betts, another modern-day hero who would not
be out of place in an all-time Wigan XIII. The game, played in a wonderful
carnival atmosphere in temperatures soaring into the 80s, never dropped
below the intensity of a Cup final and St Helens, who badly needed the
points to secure second place in Super League, played their part to the
full. Tommy Martyn had opened the scoring with a third-minute penalty and
the visitors drew level when Paul Sculthorpe touched down.
But Wigan seized temporary control with two more tremendous tries in the
space of five minutes, Farrell catching the Saints defence napping with a
quickly-taken tap that set up a score for Connolly and Robinson bringing
the capacity crowd to its feet with a spectacular 65-metre try. Farrell's
second conversion made it 16-6, but Saints hit back when Martyn and Paul
Newlove combined to get Anthony Sullivan over at the corner.
Saints drew level on 57 minutes when Kevin Iro raced in at the corner
before Robinson again demonstrated electrifying pace with his second try.
Farrell added the goal and attempted to put the result beyond doubt with a
failed drop goal but Wigan added a fifth try through centre Paul Johnson
five minutes from time.
There was still time for Martyn to have the consolation of scoring the
final try at the ground.
Betts said: "It was a relief when it was over. We did what we had set out
to do. It was also a sad day because this place means so much to so many
people. We wanted to go out on a winning note."
Wigan:- Kris Radlinski, Jason Robinson, Gary
Connolly, Danny Moore, Paul Johnson, Chris Chester, Gavin Clinch, Neil
Cowie, Mark Smith, Terry O'Connor, Mick Cassidy, Denis Betts, Andy Farrell
Subs:- Brett Goldspink, Tony Mestrov, Simon Haughton and Lee
Tries:Betts(3), Connolly(26), Robinson(30,62), Johnson(71)
St Helens:-AnTony Stewart, Chris Smith, Kevin Iro,
Paul Newlove, Anthony Sullivan, Paul Sculthorpe, Tommy Martin, Julian
O'Neil, Keiron Cunningham, Apollo Perelini, Des Clark, Sonny Nickle, Chris
Subs:-Vila Matautia, Fereti Tuilagi, Garath Price, Steve Hall.
Tries:Sculthorpe(21), Sullivan(35), Iro(59), Matyn(78)