Rugby League: Robinson provides Wigan's inspiration

St Helens 18 Wigan 38
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TWO moments of individual ability and a surprise lit up and ultimately decided a distinctly average Bank Holiday derby in the JJB Sports Super League at Knowsley Road yesterday.

A mistake-ridden match was locked at six-all with half-time approaching when Jason Robinson took the ball well inside his own half, ran laterally to skirt past four attempts to tackle him, and then straightened up along the left touchline to devastating effect.

Andy Haigh chased him all the way and Bobbie Goulding had the perfect angle to get across and tackle a player with less pace into touch, but Robinson was far too quick for both.

If Robinson was a predictable tormentor, then Wigan's next killer blow was delivered by one of their emerging stars. John Monie has been singing the praises of Lee Gilmour ever since he returned to the club this winter, and Gilmour showed an impressive glimpse of his exciting potential yesterday.

Starting the match on the wing but moved into the pack by this stage, Gilmour ran onto Henry Paul's pass and beat a series of tackles. Andy Farrell's two goals put Wigan 12 points ahead at half-time, a gap that never looked like being closed.

"We contributed to our own downfall," said the St Helens coach, Shaun McRae. "We just missed too many tackles. Robinson's try was freakish, but that's the sort of thing he does week after week. When Gilmour scored, he beat four tackles; that's not a failure of the defensive pack, that's a case of individual failings."

McRae gambled on starting with Tommy Martyn and the gamble failed, not because of recent knee problems but because, with typically bad luck, he picked up another leg injury that saw him visiting in hospital yet again.

Despite hobbling around for much of the match, Martyn did grab the try that briefly brought St Helens back into contention, sneaking in from a marginally onside position to touch down Goulding's clever reverse-kick.

Gary Connolly soon put Wigan back on course, capitalising on good handling by Paul and Mick Cassidy. Stephen Holgate's powerful run through Sean Long's tackle then gave them the momentum that led to the predictably excellent Farrell sending in Tony Smith and, with Farrell completing his tally of seven goals, Wigan were well in control going into the last 10 minutes.

There was some small consolation for the well-beaten Saints when the otherwise quiet Paul Newlove wrestled his way out of Terry O'Connor's tackle to score, but even then it was Wigan who finished the stronger, Robinson's run putting them on the attack again and Farrell and Cassidy allowing Paul Johnson to sell a dummy and score in the corner.

It has almost been a tradition in recent years for Wigan-Saints derbies to start in a completely misleading way. This was no exception, Haigh taking Karle Hammond's pass and beating the tackles of Smith, Cassidy and Kris Radlinski to score after only 87 seconds.

Goulding's goal put Saints six points up, but Wigan responded through the first of Farrell's goals and then a try from Radlinski that sprang from the Wigan captain's long pass.

"It was one of those matches where you wished the hooter had sounded after two minutes," McRae said.

Unfortunately for Wigan's opponents this season, playing against them will require them to be on their mettle for rather longer than that.

St Helens: Atcheson; C Smith, Haigh, Newlove, Sullivan; Martyn, Goulding; Goldspink, Hamilton, O'Neill, Joynt, Sculthorpe, Hammond. Substitutes used: Long, Pickavance, D Smith, Anderson.

Wigan: Radlinski; Gilmour, Connolly, Moore, Robinson; Paul, T Smith; Mestrov, McCormack, O'Connor, Betts, Cassidy, Farrell. Substitutes used: Cowie, Holgate, Johnson.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).