A GRAND final appearance at Old Trafford in a fortnight
looks far from pie in the sky for Wigan after a near perfect first half
performance blasted bitter rivals and defending champions St Helens out of the
The Warriors racked up six tries and conceded only one in
an error free first forty minutes which shocked the record play-off crowd of
21,790, who had all expected a far closer contest.
But Wigan’s wonderful front row of Craig Smith, Quentin
Pongia and Terry Newton ripped the Saints apart in the middle of the park and
Ian Millward’s men were forced to try and slow the game down to keep pace with
the men from the right side of Billinge Hill.
Terry Newton’s towering performance against Keiron
Cunningham must have given GB coach David Waite, who was watching in the West
Stand, plenty to think about ahead of this autumn’s internationals.
Waite would also have seen, if he didn’t know already, just
how vital Andy Farrell is to his team, club or country. The Wigan captain hadn’t
trained all week because of a knee injury. But after having it drained he took
to the field with a pain killing injection, heavy strapping and a visible limp
but still put in 70 minutes of try saving defence and try making attack.
Mike Gregory said: ‘I tried to drag him off 10 minutes into
the second half but he wouldn’t come off. We’ll have to wrap him up in cotton
wool and hope for the best.’
Wigan got off to a flying start and never looked back.
Danny Tickle scored in the fifth minute after taking a flicked pass from
Farrell, which a seething Ian Millward was adamant was forward. But a few
minutes later Adrian Lam went over for the first of his brace of tries. Wigan
got position on the Saints line after Darren Smith and paul Sculthorpe were
penalised for holding Pongia down. Terry Newton fired a pass out to his
scrum-half and the PNG star dived through the gap.
Mick Cassidy got the next try, collecting Lam’s kick on the
full, and although Jason Hooper showed Wigan were not impenetrable by scoring
through poor tackles from O’Connor and Newton, the tide didn’t turn and Wigan
got three more before break, Lam’s second, an O’Loughlin score out wide and an
80 metre sprint from Carney.
shows that if any team can come back from behind it is Saints, particularly in
knock out competitions, but it was not to be. They gave themselves hope with a
51 minute try from Darren Smith, but their other tries, from Cunningham, Newlove
and Smith again came in the last 10 minutes and were mere consolation.