Rugby League: Offiah relishes hat-trick as Wigan hit top gear: Holder's determined onslaught puts Bradford Northern's championship ambitions on hold

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Wigan. . . . . . . . .41

Bradford Northern. . .14

WIGAN are not yet ready to surrender the championship they have held for the last four years. A performance that gathered irresistible momentum as it went on brought them victory over their midweek conquerors, Bradford Northern, at Central Park last night.

It ensures that the two clubs, plus Warrington, will go into their last two matches level on points. A display that improved their already superior points difference makes Wigan strong favourites to cling on to their title despite their occasional uncertainties this season.

Bradford made a scintillating start, finding it surprisingly easy to make long breaks through Wigan's defence.

The first of them, a rampage out of his own 25 by Karl Fairbank, carried on by Dave Watson, threw Wigan into confusion. They were penalised for tackling Roy Powell without the ball and Deryck Fox's kick put Bradford ahead.

Wigan were at full stretch repelling further raids from Paul Newlove and Neil Summers, and from the latter they conceded a penalty, but Fox could not extend Bradford's lead.

It was an unsettling opening for a Wigan side which knew it had to win. However, Frano Botica fed Sam Panapa, who showed the extra pace he seems to have found this season by streaking over in the corner. Botica added to the sense of relief by slotting home a magnificent goal.

Just when that seemed to have drawn Bradford's sting, Northern struck back with a freak try. Gerald Cordle chased his own kick which took a deflection off Gary Connolly and slewed to the side, eluding everyone but Daio Powell who dived in to claim the touchdown. Fox kicked the goal, but after Botica had put Wigan level with a 40-yard penalty, Wigan took the lead with an even more bizarre try.

Shaun Edwards charged down Summers' attempt at a clearing kick and his hack forward hit the post and bounced back into his arms for a gift try to which Botica duly added a goal.

There was nothing fortunate about Wigan's next try, Phil Clarke and Kelvin Skerrett opening up the defence. Panapa sending in Martin Offiah, with Botica again immaculate from the touchline.

Five minutes into the second half, Bradford threw away their remaining chance of reversing the flow of the game. Watson's wild pass was snaffled by the alert Clarke and Bradford could not keep out Andy Farrell. Botica missed that goal but soon chipped over a compensatory drop goal.

A Paul Medley try from an exchange of passes with Daio Powell after the Wigan substitute, Nick Cassidy, had dropped the ball was merely token resistance. A break from the excellent Farrell gave Offiah his second hat-trick in consecutive home games. Connolly released Edwards for the final try in injury time.

Wigan: Connolly; Tuigamala, Bell, Panapa, Offiah; Botica, Edwards; Skerrett (Cowie, 73), M Hall, Platt, Betts, Cowie (Farrell, 22), Clarke (Cassidy, 60).

Bradford Northern: Summers; C Hall, D Powell (Heron, 36; D Powell, 40), Newlove, Cordle; Watson (Greenwood, 51), Fox; R Powell, Clark, Greenwood (Hamer, 47), Dixon, Medley, Fairbank.

Referee: J Holdsworth (Kippax).

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