Wigan defy the odds and win the 2002
Kelloggs Nutri-Grain Challenge Cup Final with a well deserved
21-12 win over rivals St Helens at Murrayfield. Kris Radlinski,
who had been confined to a hospital bed for most of the week,
produced a stirring display as the underdogs led throughout to
claim their first Cup success for seven years.
through Atomic Kitten, Abide with Me and the tedious National
Anthem, St Helens kicked off the 2002 Challenge Cup Final. The
game didn't start as I expected it to. I was expecting a fast
paced start to the game but in truth the game started slowly with
both sides being content to just play out their sets of six early
St Helens went closest first on 9 minutes when Tim Jonkers
found a slight gap on the left wing. He looked certain to score
but Kris Radlinski produced the first of many superb tackles by
him on the day. The ball went dead and Wigan got a 20 metre tap.
From that twenty metre tap, Wigan got the first clean break of
the game through Andy Farrell on the Wigan left hand side. He and
Radlinski offloaded in the tackle which allowed Adrian Lam to fire
a long pass to Gary Connolly who sent Brett Dallas on a free run
to the line in the right corner. Farrell kicked the conversion and
Wigan led 6-0 after 10 minutes.
Minutes later Farrell again broke through the St Helens line
but this time a smart little grubber kick by Lam was just to far
ahead of Radlinski but Sean Long had to push it out from a
From the dropout, David Furner made a half break, offloading on
the inside to Lam who beat Paul Wellens and Keiron Cunningham to
score just left of the posts. Farrell converted the try and Wigan
led 12-0 after just 15 minutes.
Wigan knew even after just 15 minutes that Saints would
comeback and even tried a drop goal attempt on 21 minutes but
Farrell hit it short and wide of the uprights.
Moments later Saints did hit back when Sean Long produced a
great bomb on the last tackle. Winger Darren Albert leaped above
Jamie Ainscough to score a much-needed try for the Saints but Sean
Long hit the conversion attempt wide of the posts. Wigan lead 12-4
after 21 minutes.
From the following kick off, Andy Farrell made a huge error
which could have proved costly when he kicked the kick off out on
the full. Thankfully it didn't because from the resulting penalty,
a possible Keiron Cunningham try was judged No Try by Video
Referee Ray Tennant. Controversially so in some peoples eyes but
looking at the tape, I'm not sure that Cunningham got the ball
over the line. Maybe that's just my Wigan bias eh?
In the 31st minute Saints hit back again when Martin Gleeson
went over in the right wing corner. He showed some excellent
footwork to beat Paul Johnson and took Radlinski over the line to
score. Sean Long though failed with the conversion again allowing
Wigan to still lead 12-8
At this point Wigan were just hoping the could hang on until
half time with their lead intact. They did exactly that but Half
Time brought the news that Mick Cassidy had dislocated his
shoulder ruling out of the rest of the game.
Wigan came out for the second half knowing they they really
needed to score first. It took them 9 minutes but thats exactly
what they did. This time it was Julian O'Neill's turn to break
through. He offloaded to Johnson who then set up Connolly who went
over just to the right of the sticks. Farrell converted again and
Wigan led 18-8
Saints though hit back yet again on the hour mark, this time
through Paul Sculthorpe. Darren Britt offloaded very nicely to
Sculthorpe who went over just to the right of the posts. Long
though completed a miserable afternoon for him personally by
missing an easy kick. It was still game on though with just a try
and goal between them at 18-12.
But following that try the key moment of the game occurred for
Wigan. Farrell kicked a 40/20 which resulted in a drop goal for
Adrian Lam a couple of minutes later. That drop goal sealed it for
With just 14 minutes to go, the Warriors were quite content to
just see out the clock now but Saints didn't give up. They blew
what turned out to be their last chance of the game on 72 minutes
however when they threw an intercept to Jamie Ainscough whilst
pressing the Wigan line.
From that, Saints were penalised for stripping the ball from Terry
Newton, which allowed Farrell to further stretch our lead. He
completed a perfect goal kicking afternoon by slotting over the
penalty extending the lead to 21-12 with just 5 minutes left.
Wigan then just killed the clock to secure their first
Challenge Cup win since 1995. The hooter went to a tremendous
noise and the party began.
The reason we won on the day was simple We had been more
desperate than Saints and wanted the win more, simple as that. Now
it's time to but a disappointing start to our league campaign
behind us and have a real crack at completing the double by
winning the Grand Final in October.