Wigan were at their best on Sunday for a win over Salford
Reds. Wigan fans still recall Salford's double league victories of last
season, but there was no chance for a repeat this time. Sunday afternoon
is the traditional time for Rugby League in England, and it seemed to
bring out the best in the Wigan team, as well as the spectators.
Wigan and Salford's alliance teams set the scene for Sunday when Wigan
beat Salford 36-16. The star men in that game were Paul Johnson and John
Clarke, who are destined to become stars over the next few years at Wigan.
Johnson was lifted by his call up to the emerging England team earlier
that week and it showed in his game play when he managed to score 4 tries.
The curtain raiser to the main event on Sunday was another Wigan v Salford
game. This time it was the Academy teams who faced each other and Wigan
again came up victors as they powered their way to a 38-12 victory,
although you had to calculate the score as the scoreboard was suffering
from heat stroke all afternoon.
Then came the main event with Wigan and Salford entering the arena to the
tune "Enter the Gladiators." Andy Gregory took his place in the Douglas
Stand and made sure he kept a lower profile than usual. Gregory was under
orders from the RFL to stay off the touch-line for the rest of this season
after an outburst of obscenities directed at the match referee two weeks
earlier was caught live on SKY TV's cameras. Gregory was found guilty, was
find 1000 pounds and banished to the cheap seats. So his Salford team
didn't receive the customary in-match coaching tips and verbal abuse that
they were used to.
The game started well for Wigan as they powered up to the Salford defence
for fifteen minutes before breaking through. The only score up to then
being an Andy Farrell penalty. Young Darryl Cardiss was a very able
replacement at scrum half for the injured Tony Smith and proved to be very
elusive. Wigan got their first try via a great break from full back Kris
Radlinski, who offloaded to the impressive Danny Moore. Moore split the
Salford defence and powered over the line. This was Danny Moore at his
best. Hard tackling, ever present in support at the right time and able to
finish given half a chance.
Next off the starting blocks was Darryl Cardiss, who collected a super
pass from Farrell and then managed to pass out the ball to Dennis Betts.
Betts charged over the line to score a well worked try for Wigan that saw
the Salford heads drop, but they soon picked themselves up to put Wigan
under pressure and test that sterling defence that John Monie had built
up. Substitute Joe Faimalo made a fantastic break from about half way and
left everyone for dead. But full back Kris Radlinski lined up Faimalo in
his sights from afar and hit Joe with a bone crunching tackle that stopped
him dead in his stride. A few minutes later Scott Martin was held up over
the line and Salford continued with some creative attacks.
Paul Forber was up to his usual dirty, high tackling tricks on anyone and
everyone, even Neil Cowie. Which is not a wise move at the best of times.
Luckily for him Cowie was taken off and replaced by young prop Neil Baynes,
who made several fine charges through the Salford line. It was then that
Gary Connolly struck. He stepped around Nathan McAvoy and set-off to the
right side of the park. As Connolly was tackled he cleverly offloaded the
ball around the defender and the supporting Mark Bell gratefully accepted
four points. The unusually quiet Simon Haughton was substituted for Paul
Johnson before half time, and that meant Paul Johnson went on the left
wing and Lee Gilmour came into the second row.
That made some room for Gilmour who just minutes after the change around,
danced and stepped through a tired Salford defence to touch down near the
posts. Farrell's kicking gave Wigan a 24-0 half time lead and seemed to
signal a rout from Wigan in the second half. The second half started
better for Salford with fewer mistakes and some good field kicking for
position. The best scoring chance for Wigan during next 20 minutes came
from a Denis Betts break. He passed out to Gary Connolly, but the pass was
bad and it hit Connolly's foot. Moore made better of his chance a short
while later when he broke through again and passed to Bell, who stopped,
started, dummied and then darted over for his second try. Even Bell seemed
surprised at the room he made when the Salford defence bought his dummy
Then Jason Robinson entered the field, after sitting on the bench due to
an ankle strain and a bruised rib. He came on at scrum half for Cardiss
and had barely been on a minute when he ran around the defence and made a
50-meter break down field. He was stopped by a great cover tackle by Gary
Broadbent just past the halfway line. Robinson was quick to play the ball
and take advantage of the missing Salford defence. Radlinski passed out to
Gilmour and the speed man pinned back his ears and there wasn't a hope of
stopping him as he headed to the line for his second try of the game.
Wigan were well in control and when a sloppy pass was intercepted by
McAvoy it was Moore who chased McAvoy 70 meters down the left wing to haul
him down 20 metres short of the line. By the time the other 24 players had
caught up with play it was Salford who got the better of the play as Alker
went over the line and was awarded a penalty try by Stuart Cummings.
Cummings conferred with the other officials and gave the decision that
Alker had the ball ripped from his grasp in a three-man tackle. Rob
Russell kicked the conversion and they were Salford's only consolation
points of the game.
Overall Wigan deserved the win, being more determined, creative and
powerful. They did relax in the second half scoring only 10 points
compared to the 24 they managed in the first half. Farrell didn't kick as
well as he did at Hull and Henry Paul had another average game. Which for
a world class player like Paul is pretty bad. The shining jewel in this
game was the return to top form of centre Danny Moore, who had not been so
dominant over the previous few weeks. Connolly also had a better game this
week, showing his pace and creativity. Wigan made far too many mistakes
for their own good and John Monie is certain to pick up on them this week
as they prepare to meet the Superleague champions Bradford at Odsel
stadium, the home of Bull.
After the game John Monie said, ""It was like watching the Second Division
back in Australia. I don't think we can play any worse than we did in the
second half. The first half was good, but I was very disappointed with the
way we played in the second - it was a nightmare. The players get paid
good money to do what we expect them to do and stick to the things that we
have set out to do. They've got to be better than that. Something is wrong
with the way we are playing the game. Four or five times when we had tries
on we tried to force the last pass and we just gave the ball back."
Monie kept Jason Robinson on the bench for an hour as he rested slight rib
and ankle injuries but revealed afterwards that the Great Britain winger
is set to face former Wigan scrum-half Shaun Edwards in next Friday's
crunch match at Bradford. With Tony Smith still on the injured list,
youngster Daryl Cardiss deputised as halfback today for the second
successive game but he made way for Robinson in the last 20 minutes.
Monie said, "I said I would put Jason on at half-back for the last
quarter. I don't think Tony Smith will play next week, so there is every
chance for Jason when I pick the team. He kept holding his ribs and
pulling faces all week, so I decided to have him on the bench and put him
on for the last 20 minutes. Even he didn't play to instructions because I
told him not to get tackled. He got tackled twice. I told him to move the
ball so he didn't get tackled!"
Salford coach Andy Gregory said afterwards, "Everything that Wigan did
came off, but we did not help ourselves by missing tackles. I don't think
I've ever seen Andy Platt put the ball down, but he did and Wigan punished
us with six points. For their first four tries there were one-on-one
tackles missed. You can't come to Central Park and have a 13-4 penalty
count against you. That means your players are having to do a lot of the
tackling, and it is a lot easier to play rugby with the ball in your hand.
That's what Wigan did - they threw the ball about and the little kicks
For Salford a fourth consecutive defeat increases the pressure on coach
Andy Gregory, the former Wigan scrum-half. He added "Naturally I'm
disappointed but, despite what people think, I haven't taken Salford as
far as I can. We are still looking to improve. We're not going to go away
and sulk, and I'm no quitter."
Wigan:- Kris Radlinski, Mark Bell, Gary Connolly,
Danny Moore, Lee Gilmour, Henry Paul, Darryl Cardiss, Neil Cowie, Robbie
McCormack, Tony Mestrov, Denis Betts, Simon Haughton, Andy Farrell (Capt.)
Subs:- Jason Robinson, Paul Johnson, Mick Cassidy, Neil Baynes
Tries: Moore (17), Betts (22), Bell (33,62), Gilmour (37,66)
Goals: Farrell 5
Salford:- Gary Broadbent, Robert Russell, Scott
Martin, Nathan McAvoy, Darren Rogers, Josh White, Mark Lee, Andy
Platt(Capt.), Peter Edwards, Cliff Eccles, Paul Forber, David Bradbury,
Subs:- Malcolm Alker, Joe Faimalo, Esene Faimalo, Paul Southern.
Tries: Alker (78, Penalty try)