It's been a season of mixed emotions and high drama both off and on the
field but revitalised Wigan are just one match away from another trophy
After all the turmoil they have gone through most clubs would
be happy to see the back of the season but the Warriors have recaptured
their will to win and must be favourites to lift a fourth successive
Premiership Trophy against the old enemy St Helens next Sunday.
Coach Eric Hughes goes into his first final in charge at Central Park
admitting there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"We are still a very young side but the recent performances auger well
for the future. Our Alliance side has won the Challenge Final, the Academy
has just reached theirs and things look much brighter," he said.
As the scoreline suggests this was not a cakewalk for the Riversiders
who had to defend for long spells against a hard working Eagles outfit.
They had raced to a 20-0 half-time lead but after the break the Eagles
tightened their defence forcing Wigan into handling mistakes and the
pressure was on.
Wigan's line cracked twice when Danny McAllister and Johnny Lawless
ripped through to score and Mark Aston added a goal but from then on
resolute defence ensured Wigan were heading back to Old Trafford.
The Warriors had a spendid start when Andy Farrell broke clear before
sending Jason Robinson diving over. The livewire full-back twice had a
hand in a move which saw Andy Johnson cross for a try and just before the
break burly Simon Haughton darted over from short range. Farrell added
four goals and a second-half penalty.
Wigan's rhythm was upset when Henry Paul left the field with a back
injury and although he returned later to replace Nigel Wright, who had
bruised his shoulder, he was clearly not at his best.
"It was an unsettling period for us, " admitted Hughes. "But I was
pleased with our defensive work. It was a tough semi but we have quality
players who came up with the goods."
WIGAN: Robinson, Johnson A, Radlinski, Connolly, Ellison, Paul,
Smith, Cowie, Clarke, Hansen, Haughton, Cassidy, Farrell. Subs: Wright
(for Paul 13), Paul (for Wright 30), O'Connor (for Cowie 44), Holgate (for
Hansen 49), Tallec (for Haughton 65).
Wigan Warriors 22
Tries: Jason Robinson, Andy Johnson, Simon Haughton
Goals: Andy Farrell (5)
Sheffield Eagles 10
Tries: Danny McAllister, Johnny Lawless
Goals: Mark Aston