Wigan, spearheaded by a double hat-trick of tries
from Martin Offiah, were far too fast, powerful and inventive for the best
of English rugby union has to offer in the historic first meeting between
the leading clubs in the two codes last night.
It was entirely expected that Wigan would win
handsomely under their own set of rules. It was the extent of their
superiority, even in the aspect of play that the two codes should have in
common, that will have surprised even the most pessimistic union diehard.
It might have proved nothing in isolation, but I
fancy that the odds against Wigan also winning the return match, under
rugby union rules at Twickenham on 25 May, will have narrowed perceptibly.
Wigan did to Bath what they have done to so many
opponents from their own game over the years, blitzing them in the opening
minutes and reducing the rest of the game to a mis-match.
Bath did not help themselves by making a crass
mistake when Jon Callard's kick off failed to make the required 10 metres
and, although they managed to keep out the first wave of Wigan attacks,
the game was only three minutes old when Martin Offiah took Gary
Connolly's inside pass for the first of the six tries that made it a
memorable night for the former Rosslyn Park winger.
Rugby union never saw the best of Offiah, but one
rugby union team began to last night when a move from the scrum base
released him for his second try three minutes later.
Within 23 minutes of the start Henry Paul, Jason
Robinson, Terry O'Connor and Andy Johnson had all gone in for further
tries, Andrew Farrell and Martin Hall between them had kicked all six
goals and Wigan had been able to take advantage of the luxury of bringing
off Paul and Farrell, two of their most destructive individuals, for an
It was indicative of Bath's failure to come to terms
with the pace and intensity of the game that their first two ventures into
the Wigan half were the result of penalties conceded by Neil Cowie. It was
hard to see how they would get there otherwise.
The Richmond-bound Scott Quinnell scored with his
first touch after coming on as a substitute. Then came a Craig Murdock try
and, just before half time, Offiah's hat-trick after Quinnell's strong
Bath, to their credit after the pounding they had
taken in the first half, did perform considerably better after the
interval, although that may have had something to do with Wigan losing
some of their urgency.
In fact, after O'Connor had gone over for the first
try of the half, Bath got their only points when Callard ended a period of
sustained pressure by darting over and kicking the conversion.
That prompted Shaun Edwards to give his team a
furious rollocking behind their try line. The Wigan captain clearly wanted
to give Bath nothing and it was his pass that sent in Mick Cassidy as
Wigan hit their stride once more. Offiah squeezed in at the corner twice
in quick succession before Johnson, Robinson and Offiah yet again
completed the rout.
Edwards paid tribute to the fighting spirit of the
Bath players. "Their lads never gave in and you have to give them credit,"
he said. "Lots of teams would have put their heads down after that first
half, but full credit to them."
The Bath captain, Phil de Glanville, was full of
admiration for Wigan's skills. "They're a fantastic side," he said.
"They're so hard to stop with their lines of running, in particular in the
pack. They come on at pace.''
It was not real rugby league, but after 101 years it
was enjoyable enough as a novelty. Few will regard Bath as entirely safe
on union territory in 16 day's time.
Wigan: Radlinski; J Robinson, Tuigamala, Connolly,
Offiah; Paul, Edwards; Cowie, Hall, O'Connor, Houghton, Cassidy, Farrell.
Substitutes used: Smyth, Murdock, Quinnell, Johnson.
Bath: Lumsden; Sleightholme, De Glanville, Waters,
Adebayo; Catt, Callard; Yates, Sanders, Haag, Vander, Ojomoh, A Robinson.
Substitutes used: Butland, Redman, McCarthy, Pearce.
Referee: R Smith (Castleford).