Sunday 25th January 1998
Hilton Park 3.00PM.
Leigh 10 - Wigan 32
(HT 6 - 16)
Leigh:- Donlan, Burgess, Ingram, Fairclough, Harthill, O'Loughlin, Patel, Street, Jenkins, Pucill, Nixon, Costello, Garcis.
Subs:- Liku, Geritas, Burgess, Gunning, Smith, Wilkinson.
Tries: Patel, Ingram.
Wigan:- Davis, Smyth, Connolly, Gilmour, Peters, Cardiss, Smith, Cowie, McCormack, Mestrov, Barrow, Cassidy, Farrell.
Subs:- Grundy, Talbot, Ball, Isherwood, Morris.
Tries: Cardiss, Farrell, Smyth (2), Connolly, Talbot.
Goals: Farrell 4.
Referee: Gary Shaw.
Weather: Slight wind and bitterly cold.
Man of the match: Wigan: Robbie McCormack.
Man of the match: Leigh: Tim Street.
Wigan warriors scored a double victory on Sunday beating Whitehaven 44
points to 12 at Central Park and then Leigh, later on that day at
Hilton Park, 32 points to 10. Wigan coaching staff took the chance to
blood all of their fit professionals and many young players in the two
games. The two wins proved to coach John Monie that he will have a
selection problem come the start of the season, who not to pick from
over 30 players capable of succeeding on the field of dreams. A problem
that any coach would be glad of. The game against Whitehaven took place
behind closed doors and the star man of that game was New Warriors
centre Bell with three tries.
The game at Leigh on the other hand attracted over 3,700
supporters. And Wigan generously allowed Leigh Centurion's to keep all
of the profits from the game as a thank-you for providing Wigan with
what proved to be a worthy challenge. Many people will remember the
fiercely contested local derby's between these two teams from a few
years ago. And this served as a reminder of those good times for Leigh
RLFC. What added to the memories was the temperature off the field. The
game was played on a clear but bitterly cold afternoon and a partisan
Leigh crowd welcomed Wigan with the famous chants that those old enough
to recall will notice little change in. Wigan started slowly and Leigh
made a lot of ground in the first half. In fact Leigh made some very
clear breaks only to be stopped just short by a last ditch Wigan
defender. Assisted by an early penalty count of 4 to nil by the
referee, Leigh worried Wigan for nearly 15 minutes and surprised even
their own fans.
Wigan then started to get into gear and Winger Rob Smyth looked to be
enjoying a good run out with his old team-mates. Props Cowie and
Mestrov faired well as did Leigh's prop and captain, Tim Street. All
was going well until Mestrov fell in a tackle and broke his finger
early in the first half. He left the field in much pain and was taken
away for medical treatment immediately. Wigan shifted subs around and
Leigh used nearly all of their 23 man squad.
Warrior's skipper Andy Farrell led well from the front of the game from
Wigan and kicked more then adequately. Tony Smith was alert and set-up
two tries from his jinking runs from midfield. New Australian signing
McCormak played well for a new boy, making some big hits and powerful
runs from the middle of the park at hooker. He may be 31 but he was
able and hard, skilful to put down, and had it not been for the referee
spotting forward passes from afar McCormack would have set up 3 more
tries for Wigan. Wigan launched their first attack of the game when
Smith jinked inside to see the Leigh line ahead of him and offloaded to
Darryl Cardiss to score under the posts. Smith again provided a nice
pass for Farrell to twist over the line and all was looking good for
Leigh next hit back with a finely worked try from impressive scrum half
Safraz Patel. He ran up to the Wigan line, chipped over and re-gathered
the ball, having a go at juggling and then scoring under the posts. It
was well deserved and the Leigh fans erupted into cheers of joy at the
thought of possibly pushing Wigan in this friendly game. Those hopes
were dashed as Farrell made a run through to offload to Rob Smyth who
strolled in to take a try.
Half time saw the scores close at 16 - 6. But that was soon to change
when the ever dangerous Gary Connolly let fly with a bust of speed from
acting half back early on the second half. The supporting Smyth caught
the pass and headed for the line only to be held down by David Ingram,
who was duly sin binned. Connolly was rewarded a minute later when he
forced his way over under the posts to score. A minute later again saw
Smyth crash over out wide from another Farrell break and offload.
Leigh grabbed another try courtesy of Ingram when Wigan's young full
back Wes Davis missed a high ball from Patel. Of course a few fists let
fly when Tim Street finally squared up to Lee Gilmore and Neil Cowie
tried to finish the matter in the next tackle. Needless to say the next
few drives by both players were far from friendly. Leigh proved to be
very able during this game, and a second sin bin of Pucill for a second
professional foul on Gilmore was an indication of Leigh's frustration.
Ian Talbot rounded off the afternoon with a final try for Wigan, the
final score being Wigan 32 and Leigh 10.
Connolly, Cardiss and Cassidy all came through the game with honours,
as did young players like Barrow, Talbot, Ball, Isherwood and Gilmour.
Overall the Wigan team made up of a mix of first team players and young
hopefuls faired well against a fired up and determined Leigh side.
Leigh did better than most expected and could feel proud that they kept
this seasons Superleague championship favourites to just 32 points and
happened to score 10 good points themselves. The pick of the Leigh team
was Tim Street, with Patel, Ingram, Pucil, Liku and Fairclough giving
very creditable performances. Both sides will be glad that the game
went well and both will take away a sense of pride at the score.