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15th March 1998: Wigan 22 St Helens 10
Posted by cherryandwhite on October 20 2013 - 22:55

Click: Last Match - Click: Next Match

Sunday 15th March 1998

Wigan Warriors 22 St Helens 10
Central Park, Wigan
Silk Cut Challenge Cup Quarter Final

Kick Off: 1:45pm


Wigan Team


Kris Radlinski



Mark Bell



Gary Connolly



Danny Moore



Jason Robinson  T   


Henry Paul    


Tony Smith    


Tony Mestrov    


Robbie McCormack    


Stephen Holgate    


Simon Haughton  T   


Mick Cassidy    


Andy Farrell    G3 




Neil Cowie    


Denis Betts  T   


Terry O'Connor    


Lee Gilmour    

St Helens 

1. Paul Atcheson, 14. Chris Smith, 18. Andy Haigh, 4. Paul Newlove, 5. Anthony Sullivan, 20. Tommy Martyn, 7. Bobbie Goulding, 23. Brett Goldspink, 9. Keiron Cunningham, 15. Julian O'Neill, 11. Chris Joynt, 13. Paul Sculthorpe, 6. Karle Hammond.
Interchange: 3. Sean Long, 8. Apollo Perelini, 10. Ian Pickavance, 25. Paul Anderson

Tries: Chris Smith, Keiron Cunningham
Goals: Bobbie Goulding 1


On this mild and bright day an untested yet confident Wigan team took to the field at Central Park. The 17,179-crowd roared as the teams started the game. Wigan's tactics were not at first evident, a short kick-off gave them possession straight away. But they played hard one-man rugby for most of the first half. St Helens played the faster and more flamboyant rugby, and it was relatively mistake free. Wigan's unbreached defence so far in the cup was broken after 17 minutes as St Helens winger Sullivan evaded three would-be Wigan tackles in his own half to soar along the touchline. He offloaded to wingman Chris Smith who just stayed ahead of Radlinski to score under the posts. Goulding added the conversion to give Saints a 6-0 lead and things heated up on the pitch.

Wigan defended to the last man and made some great individual breaks, centre Danny Moore striding over to finish off a fine try. Farrell converted and the half time score was 6 all. The game was evenly balanced. St Helens being fast and creative, Wigan having that solid defence with Robinson always threatening to break free, wriggling and jinking around the plays from dummy half. Wigan's kicking game was also proving to be well ahead of the St Helens game with Scum Half Smith and Loose forward Farrell both booting the ball into the corner and forcing Saints full back Atcheson and Winger Sullivan to persistently run back and chase the ball. Wigan's chase was also up to the task and they managed to put pressure on St Helens many times.

The masterstroke of a clean break for Wigan came just 7 minutes into the second half when from a scrum on the Wigan 10 meter line Danny Moore, the big Australian Centre, broke through the St Helens line and offloaded around the tackler to send the supporting Robinson clear. Atcheson made a valiant effort to tackle Robinson, but a swift and firm hand off saw Robinson break free to complete the 80 metre sprint with a fine and well deserved try. Farrell again converted and Wigan led 12-6, the cup holders hit back with Sullivan crossing for a 53 rd-minute touchdown. Goulding found the woodwork of the crossbar with the conversion, which he seems to have a habit of doing at Central Park. And the score remained at 12-10.

But that wasn't the end of the story. Wigan finished much the stronger side in the final 20 minutes and a bulldozing, gritted effort from Great Britain forward Simon Haughton in the 68th minute eventually broke the deadlock. Haughton collected a loose pass after Neil Cowie lost control of the ball near the St Helens try line, and he used his considerable strength to power past a couple of defenders. Sean Long's efforts of hanging on to Haughton's legs for grim death was not enough to stop him, and three more St Helens players grabbed at Haughton in vain and he stretched over to put the ball down over the whitewash. That was surly the try that broke the back of the game. Rugby league is a game of skill, tactics and fitness. But sometimes it takes an individuals determination to inspire a team, and that's what Haughton did. After that Wigan came on strong and St Helens seemed to tire.

The game was eventually killed off in the final few minutes as Wigan were camped in the St Helens 20-meter area. The ball came back and Farrell lined up for a drop goal. The St Helens players were expecting this, having missed two drop goals themselves during the game from Goulding and Martin. The defence moved up quickly and smothered Farrell who changed tactics, stood up in the tackle and off-loaded to Tony Smith. Smith then stepped through three players and twisted to pass a short ball to the waiting Dennis Betts who marched over to score a welcome home try at his old club. Betts had many memories of Central park and this was a magical moment in a match packed with incident and drama that brought back memories of the glory days at Central Park when Betts left for Auckland 3 years ago. The try sent the crowd wild and the St Helens fans marching for the exits. For Wigan were in the ascendancy and would never relinquish the lead now.

Dennis Betts said, "It's a dream come true coming back into the side. A couple of weeks ago I wasn't down to start playing until the start of the Super League season," said Betts, who has been fighting to recover from a shoulder reconstruction. I wanted to play. I had a word with the coach, he said 'no' and I spent the week trying to convince him that I was right to play, because games do not come bigger than this and I just wanted to be part of it. I would say we are favourites but there are a lot of other good sides out there,"

Coach John Monie was happy just to concentrate on Wigan's much-improved second-half display and insisted success in the Cup would not be taken for granted, despite the removal of their main challengers.

"I thought before today that we did not want to slip into the Castleford trap, where we get a lot of pats on the back and then go out and get ambushed in the next game. There will be no chance of that here," he promised.

Saints captain Bobbie Goulding admitted that his side had been beaten by the better team. "The lads worked very hard for 60 minutes, but Wigan were too strong in the end," he said.

For coach Shaun McRae, it was his first taste of defeat in the Challenge Cup following 12 successive wins, but he was quick to praise his conquerors.

"Our dressing-room is a bit solemn, because we went in with fairly high expectations," said McRae. "We started with a lot of confidence and it showed in the first half. I thought the score of 6-6 at half time was a fair indication, but we made far too many errors in the second half. You've got to give credit where credit is due, you can't win everything and if you're going to get beat, it's not too bad when you're beaten by a better side. I think you saw two very good football teams out there and we've proved that we can match them. I don't think the final margin of 12 points was a fair reflection of the game."

"It's Wigan's cup now. There's not a team left in the competition that can live with Wigan," admitted McRae.

St Helens suffered the loss of forward and inspirational Captain Chris Joynt and hooker Cunningham with injuries during the game. Goulding commanded the side well from the back, but it was never destined to be St Helens' day. It was Wigan's day and the home crowd knew it. It will hardly be remembered as a classic game of rugby, but it was tense and exciting. Referee Cummings allowed both teams to stray offside and lie on for too long in the tackles to keep the game going with the pace it could have. But he was applying the same rules, or not as the case may be, to both sides and as such some strange decisions went both ways and evened out in the end. The penalty count was surprisingly low for a local derby match between the two teams, which is probably a true reflection of the good discipline shown by both sides.

So Wigan, who won at Wembley eight times in a row up to 1995, will be joined in this evening's semi-final draw by last year's beaten semi-finalists Salford and new kids on the block London Broncos and Sheffield Eagles, both on uncharted territory.

Half Time: 

Wigan 6 St Helens 6




Stuart Cummings (Widnes)


Live Coverage on BBC 2 Sunday Grandstand - Jon Champion & Joe Lydon


1998 Challenge Cup Quarter Finals

Saturday 14th March 1998
Castleford Tigers 22 Sheffield Eagles 32 (BBC 1 Grandstand)

Sunday 15th March 1998
London Broncos 46 Hull Kingston Rovers 18
Salford Reds 41 Hull Sharks 10
Wigan Warriors 22 St Helens 10 (BBC 2 Sunday Grandstand)

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