29th March 1998: London 8 Wigan 38
Posted by Bilko on December 30 2015 - 13:01

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Sunday 29th March 1998

London Broncos 8 Wigan Warriors 38
McAlpine Stadium, Huddersfield
Silk Cut Challenge Cup Semi 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    


Denis Betts    


Simon Haughton    


Andy Farrell    G7 




Neil Cowie    


Mick Cassidy    


Terry O'Connor    


Lee Gilmour    


1. Nick Mardon, 2. Abraham Fatnowna, 3. Chris Ryan, 22. John Timu, 5. Martin Offiah, 32. Tulsen Tollett, 18. Damien Chapman, 8. Grant Young, 26. Robbie Beazley, 10. Mark Carroll, 12. Steele Retchless, 9. Peter Gill, 13. Terry Matterson.
Interchange: 4. Mat Toshack, 20. Matt Dunford, 21. Iain Higgins, 24. Roger Best.

Tries: Nick Mardon, Abraham Fatnowna
Goals: (None)


Wigan had only conceded 10 points so far in three challenge cup games and their defensive line had been very impressive up to now. London were looking like a team that built on a powerful forward game to free the backs and open up defensive gaps in their opponents. So this game promised to be a real thriller. The venue of the McAlpine stadium, although very modern and clean, sadly lacked the close atmosphere you get from a crowd that stood on terracing. Still over 9000 Wigan fans did turn up to roar as best they could to encourage the team to a Wembley final.

London started by kicking off and as Matterson went in for the first tackle he was left in a heap in the floor as Wigan advanced up the field. This did leave London a little thin and after one quick play the ball Paul passed the Farrell, who missed out a player and Robinson darted over in the left corner for the first try of the game after only 100 seconds, his 8th of the tournament so far. Farrell converted and Wigan started with a good 6 -0 score. London looked shocked as Wigan's underrated forwards powered in and gained yards of advantage in the pack battle that the fans looked forwards too.

London gained some good yards and put in kicks that Full back Radlinski found all to easy to deal with and little pressure was put on him. But when he did have to jump and claim a high ball he did it expertly, and launched some good counter attacks. London continued to give away silly penalties for lying on at the tackle, and they made far too many mistakes for their own good. Mistakes, which gave Wigan lots of attacking chances. Robinson continued to swerve around players and make great runs up the middle of the park, with Farrell, Paul and Smith giving Wigan loads of options for kicking and planned moves.

But London's forwards stuck to their task and put in a big effort to drive for the Wigan line. Wigan were suddenly stretched out wide and London moved the ball out to their right wing where Nick Marden took an inside pass to put the ball down in the corner a second before Tony Smith bundled him out into touch. The conversion was missed and the score remained 6-4. Farrell next converted a penalty which was given for holding down in the tackle again, and both he and Smith carried on with a great kicking game which saw Wigan turn the London defense time and time again.

The next score was a well worked move, Wigan moving the ball from left to right wing where Paul spun out of a tired London tackle to pass basket ball style to Mark bell who sprinted over to score on the right side. Farrell converted to take to score to 14-4 where it remained to half time. It was nearly 6 points more as Smith struggled over the line near the posts, but was judged to have made a double movement by the referee.

After half time London just had to improve their discipline and kicking game if Wigan were to be troubled. Wigan just had to keep on completing powerful sets of six mistake free plays and take advantage as the gaps appeared. And they did as Wigan mounted a confident attack on the London line in the second half. It was evident that Wigan wanted to win not only the game, but also each set of six as well. London continued to give away possession and penalties that Wigan took advantage of. Yet the referee still failed to find a yellow card.

Wigan did have a scare when Jason Robinson slipped whilst picking up a kick and landed badly on his wrist. But after a taping up he continued to cause London problems. Wigan's next try came when Smith found a gap and offloaded to Radlinski who obliged by scoring under the posts. This was a direct result of field position gained from a penalty against London's Mark Carroll for talking out of turn to the ref. Yet more lying on at the tackle resulted in the ref finally reaching for the yellow card to send off Grant Young for holding down Mark Bell. London also lost inspirational player Beasley, who was replaced by the superbly named Steel Wretchless.

A now tiring 12 man London could now not stop a Wigan team brimming with confidence. Farrell drew in 3 London defenders on the right hand side and Wigan played the ball across the field via Smith and Paul to allow Radlinski in for a easy try. Danny Moore was the next to get on the score sheet with a great try. Gary Connolly made a break down the left wing and played the ball quickly after being tackled. The ball went across the right via Robinson, Smith and Paul to Farrell and the Radlinski who was halted just a meter short of a hat trick. McCormack played the ball and Paul offloaded the Smith who in turn gave Moore the ball to score as close to the posts as he could manage.

London gave in to Wigan pressure as they lost the ball in a tackle which resulted in Wigan possession and the forwards driving up the field and setting up a play which saw that combo of Smith and Paul offload the Moore who went in for his second try. Farrell again converted the goal to make the score 38-4 with just 3 minutes remaining.

London did grab a consolation try from a loose pass by Wigan that allowed them to string together a good piece of play and send in wingman Butch Fatnowna in at the corner. The missed conversion saw the ednd of the game and the Wigan fans roar at the win and another trip to Wembley. Wigan's defense had been impressive in the cup run so far. The midfield triangle of Smith, Paul and Farrell caused no end of problems to defenses and setup numerous tries. This indeed is Wigan getting back to their best in time for Superleague III in 1 week's time.

For captain Andy Farrell it was a joyful day after three years in the Challenge Cup wilderness.

"It's fantastic to be back at Wembley - it's everyone's dream," he said. "The Australian lads are really excited about it, that's why they came over here and they are delighted to get to Wembley. To have not gone for two years was very disappointing and I could tell before we went out that we did not want to mess it up this time."

Dennis Betts Said afterwards.

"I lost a couple of quid on Saturday," explained Mancunian Betts, who had backed his home town team. "I was shouting for Salford, being a Salford lad, and Andy Gregory and Andy Platt are friends of mine. But it won't be easy against Sheffield. Their real strength is that they work as a team. There is not one player that really shines but they have a great team spirit and they are all willing to put it in for each other."

Monie admitted he had been concerned by the potential threat of London's powerful forwards and had taken nothing for granted despite their status of overwhelming favourites.

"It just seemed throughout the week that I was the only person in the north of England that was worried," he said. "You can't prepare a team with that sort of confidence surrounding them. I had to look at London and see what they did good and how we could stop them. When the time was right we played some sparkling rugby league," he said. "We probably did a bit too much at the end but the boys were trying to entertain the fans. It was a good performance but it has to be in the semi-final. We were not coming here without taking some risks."

London coach Tony Currie summed up the general mood with his assertion:

"I hate to say it but I think we saw the Wigan of old out there for 80 minutes. In the wide open spaces of Wembley I can't see Sheffield really troubling them."

Branson also admitted that he had been impressed with Wigan's performance.

"You have to take your hat off to Wigan, they are an incredible team," he said

Half Time: 

London 4 Wigan 14




Russell Smith (Castleford)


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


1998 Challenge Cup Semi Finals

Saturday 28th March 1998
Sheffield Eagles 22 Salford Reds 18 (at Leeds - BBC 1 Grandstand)

Sunday 29th March 1998
London Broncos 8 Wigan Warriors 38 (at Huddersfield - BBC 2 Sunday Grandstand)