Brown saves Wigan blushes

Wigan 16 Union Treiziste 10
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The Independent Online

It is rare for rugby league in Wigan to be a mere hors-d'oeuvre to football but that was the case at the JJB Stadium last night, Kevin Brown's last-minute try sending his side through to the last eight of the Powergen Challenge Cup.

It is rare for rugby league in Wigan to be a mere hors-d'oeuvre to football but that was the case at the JJB Stadium last night, Kevin Brown's last-minute try sending his side through to the last eight of the Powergen Challenge Cup.

With Wigan Athletic, vying for the win to take them to the Premiership before a sell-out crowd at the JJB tomorrow against Reading, the focus of interest in a town dominated by the oval ball game has temporarily, at least, shifted.

Wigan's dismal recent form hardly helped boost a sparse crowd of 5,906. Union Treiziste Catalane, who will enter Super League next year, looked the more cohesive and organised side in a dismal first half marred by poor handling and a regular flow of penalties in the wet conditions.

The Perpignan based outfit, with four Australians and an Englishman to augment a squad of élite French players, never looked likely to suffer a defeat of the size that Wigan inflicted on them in this competition three years ago. That 72-6 romp must have seemed a world away for the Wigan fans, who booed their side off the field at the break with UTC holding a shock lead thanks to Laurent Frayssinnous's 14th-minute penalty.

UTC defended their line with impressive resolution, Matt Bickerstaff making a terrific tackle to deny Kevin Brown close to the line midway through the first half. Danny Sculthorpe also went close for Wigan and was then denied a score when stand-in captain Terry Newton's pass was forward.

When Wigan finally broke through three minutes after the re-start with Chris Melling going over for a try fashioned by Denis Moran the home fans settled back for a second half of domination. Instead it roused UTC to their best attacking spell, capped when Gregory Mounis plunged over from dummy-half after Steve Hall was denied by Jerome Guisset. Frayssinous's conversion gave UTC an 8-4 lead.

Wigan became desperate, the fans agitated as one of the greatest shocks in the Cup's history loomed. With just eight minutes left Stephen Wild touched down Moran's kick, Melling landing a touchline conversion. But UTC tied the scores with four minutes to go, Frayssinous landing a 25-metre penalty.

In the game's last play Moran broke French hearts, eschewing a drop-goal attempt to take on the close range defence one last time, his pass cannoning off a defender for Brown to score, Melling adding the goal.

Wigan: Vaealiki; Aspinwall, Wild, Melling, Dallas; Brown, Moran; Seu Seu, Newton, Sculthorpe, Hansen, Guisset, Allen. Substitutes used: Colbon, Beswick, Godwin, Hargreaves.

UTC: Guigue; Murphy, Bickerstaff, Hall, Bosc; Frayssinous, Rinaldi; Beattie, Berthezene, Fellous, Cologni, Fakir, Rudder. Substitutes used: Jampy, Mounis, Touxagas, Gagliazzo.

Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).

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