Farrell points Wigan in the right direction

Wigan 50 Sheffield Eagles 6
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On the day before his 21st birthday, the new England captain, Andrew Farrell, showed again last night that he is the consummate rugby forward. Farrell led Wigan to a victory at Central Park that further improved a points difference already far superior to that of their rivals, St Helens.

Not only did he contribute seven goals, but his running and often exquisite handling were responsible for getting Wigan moving in the right direction after an uncertain start.

With cries of "Heave" to encourage them at the scrums and remind them of their recent rugby union adventures, Wigan looked curiously subdued in the opening stages, but still went ahead after 10 minutes when Rob Smyth got the ball out of tackle and Gary Connolly slipped through the defence.

There was even an experiment with wheeling the scrum, which produced a touch-down for Henry Paul that was deemed illegal. It was a display of more conventional forward skills that produced Wigan's second try, Neil Cowie and Terry O'Connor both getting the ball out and Martin Hall scampering in to score.

Sheffield, who had shown little as an attacking force, hit back with a splendid side-stepping run by John Lawless, goaled by Dean Lawford to halve Wigan's lead.

The reigning champions reasserted themselves when Farrell's pass sent Mick Cassidy in, and a break following a charged-down kick then gave Connolly time to amble across the defence before picking out Martin Offiah with a long ball. When the majestic Farrell got his pass away again for Paul to score, Sheffield were looking at a heavy defeat.

Smyth was brought back early in the second half after going 75 yards to the try line but then went almost as far for one that did count. Offiah then did well to take Jason Robinson's high pass for Wigan's seventh try.

An exchange of passes with Shaun Edwards brought Offiah his hat-trick, closely followed by a try for the substitute Andy Johnson, as Wigan edged towards a 100-point advantage over Saints, whose visit here in three weeks' time looms as the Super League decider.

Wigan: Radlinski; Smyth, Tuigamala, Connolly, Offiah; Robinson, Edwards; Cowie, Hall, O'Connor, Andrew Farrell, Cassidy, Paul. Substitutes used: Murdock, Tatupu, Haughton, Johnson.

Sheffield Eagles: Sovatabua; Sodje, Stott, Senior, Garcia, Sheridan, Lawford, Broadbent, Lawless, McAllister, Hay, Anthony Farrell, Turner. Substitutes used: Crowther, Grimley, Cook, Yasa.

Referee: S Presley (Castleford).