Wigan's young stars heeded their coach's call to turn what was becoming a miserable afternoon into a memorable Challenge Cup victory yesterday.
With 31 minutes of this tie played, the Warriors trailed 12-0, had fluffed several promising attacks and had had their enterprising winger, Brian Carney, carried off with a suspected broken ankle. But Martin Aspinwall's try just before the break and a half-time rollicking from the coach, Mike Gregory, turned the pattern of the game.
"They needed a rocket, a few expletives and a few basics about how we'd got to rip into them," said Gregory. "We missed 21 tackles in the first half and two in the second. It tells its own story. They responded to their own performance from that first half."
Widnes, greatly improved on last week's abject performance at Salford, produced two incisive moments in the opening 21 minutes: the former Wigan stand-off, Jules O'Neill, dummied and sliced through the defence from 20 yards to touch down, and Deon Bird scored from Paul Atcheson's clever pass. Not long after that, Carney was being taken to hospital after falling awkwardly and painfully in a tackle, but that is where the luck switched sides.
Bird had a try ruled out for a knock-on and Aspinwall, after good work by Sean O'Loughlin, squeezed in at the corner moments before the break.
The increased tempo and enthusiasm in Wigan's game was evidence right from the kick-off of the second half. And with O'Loughlin, 21, Hock, 20, and Mark Smith, 22, calling the shots, they began to overpower Widnes.
O'Loughlin, playing in the centre after Carney's injury, made the break that set up Mark Smith for the first of his two touchdowns. Aspinwall's cross-field kick was caught by Radlinski and finished by Smith to give Wigan the lead for the first time. O'Loughlin then sauntered over after an outrageous dummy and Terry Newton scuttled under the sticks after Hock had made a break. Kevin Brown and Danny Orr finished off the rout with late tries as Wigan scored the last of their 38 unanswered points.
Wigan Warriors: Radlinski; Dallas, Aspinwall, Brown, Carney; Orr, Robinson; O'Connor, Newton, C Smith, Tickle, Hock, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: Sculthorpe, M Smith, Pongia, Allen.
Widnes Vikings: Atcheson; Rowlands, Robinson, Bird, Giles; Jules O'Neill, Lawford; Relf, Millard, Julian O'Neill, McCurrie, Hay, Finnigan. Substitutes used: Mills, Hobson, Hughes, McDonald.
Referee: Richard Silverwood (Dewsbury).
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