Blakeley bad for Wigan

Rugby League: Salford 14 Wigan 4
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The Independent Online
Defeat at The Willows last night ended any realistic hopes Wigan might have of mounting a challenge in Super League.

Salford bounced back from defeats by St Helens and London with the sort of performance that made them the worst possible opponents for a Wigan side struggling for its rhythm.

Wigan, who have had their problems here, including the defeat in the cup last year from which many date their relative decline, looked uncomfortable from the start, especially when David Hulme's break set up a Salford try that put them into the lead. Peter Edwards and Scott Naylor were kept out, but then Nathan McAvoy picked up Steve Blakeley's bouncing pass to send Darren Rogers over in the corner.

Salford threatened to extend their lead further when Esene Faimalo charged through a hesitant Wigan defence and Fata Sini's kick caused chaos behind the try line.

Wigan survived and the concern for Salford was that, having played so well, they were only four points in credit. Sure enough, that lead proved fragile when a disputed knock-on by Faimalo gave Wigan a scrum in front of the Salford posts. Andy Farrell and Craig Murdock then combined to send in Darryl Cardiss for the equalising try.

Undeterred, Salford started the second half as they had the first, by tearing into Wigan and coming up with a try, Blakeley and Naylor both kicking ahead for Ian Watson to score. Wigan went close when Rogers tackled Andy Johnson into touch.

Blakeley missed one penalty that would have put Salford further ahead, but he took advantage of a second opportunity 14 minutes from time when the tireless Hulme was held down in the tackle.

Wigan's last chance of retrieving the situation disappeared when Johnson's touch-down was disallowed for a double movement. Watson's chip, Murdock's obstruction and Blakeley's penalty then edged Salford even closer to a famous victory that was particularly sweet for the Salford coach, Andy Gregory, who played for Wigan at a time when upsets like this were the rare exception rather than the rule.

Salford: Broadbent; Sini, Naylor, McAvoy, Rogers; Blakeley, Watson; Platt, Edwards, Eccles, Forber, Faimalo, Hulme. Substitutes used: Randall, Savelio, Southern.

Wigan: Robinson; Johnson, Connolly, Radlinski, Cardiss; Smith, Murdock; O'Connor, Cassidy, Holgate, Haughton, Tallec, Farrell. Substitutes used: Cowie, Wright, Hansen.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).