Jonathan Davies: Luckless Wigan can have no complaints

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The Independent Online

It's heartbreaking for Wigan, after they dominated proceedings for long periods in all but the final 20 yards, but no one could argue with the right of St Helens to parade the Challenge Cup around the Millennium Stadium.

This was a thoroughly entertaining final and yet another great day out for rugby league fans - Wembley's going to have to go some way to match these occasions - which did the game's image a big favour.

Wigan fans complained about one or two decisions - and they might have had the worst of the luck - but you just can't afford to give away the amount of possession they surrendered yesterday, and certainly not against St Helens.

St Helens didn't give anything away and when they got into good field positions they refused to be moved. Every kick through into the goal area was competitive and well chased and time and time again they forced Wigan to drop-out from under the posts.

Wigan just didn't have that relentless cutting edge when they got down the other end. The story of the first half was one of Wigan domination but it was St Helens who were the deadly finishers.

Two crucial errors did most to swing the game. The first was early on when Jason Hooper forced Wigan's full-back Kris Radlinski into missing his kick and Lee Gilmour dashed through for an easy try. Danny Orr had slipped the ball to Radlinski too early. He should have held Hooper up before releasing the ball and the full-back would have had a simple clearance kick.

The second major mistake came early in the second half when Wigan desperately needed to score. St Helens had them pinned down near their own line but they got an interception and Kevin Brown burst away. Had he been able to find Brett Dallas it was likely to be a length-of-the-field try but he was tackled and instead of going to ground he tried to flick a pass back. Of all people, the ball went to Paul Sculthorpe and the Saints' captain ensured their lead moved to 26-10.

Brown and Dallas did actually combine for a great try 10 minutes later but St Helens came back almost immediately and a superb chip by Sean Long, worthy Lance Todd Trophy winner, led to Willie Talau clinching the victory.

To have so many tries disallowed in the game makes you wonder how we managed before video refs arrived but I wouldn't argue with any except the first when Andrew Farrell, who had a terrific game, was judged to have dropped the ball at the line. I felt it was a ripping job but this is a grey area which causes much disatisfaction and, in the final analysis, you've got to keep hold of the ball.

In the second half I felt Wigan still had it in them to make a tight finish but inexperience did for them. They had time to get back into the game but let their anxiety get the better of them. Instead of making steady progress they were too hurried, throwing more difficult passes than they needed, so many promising moves came to grief.

Every pass that goes begging at a time like that is a drain on the confidence and the harder they tried the more errors they committed.

You must give due praise to the superbly organised Saints defence and to their excellent pre-season preparations.

While other games like football, rugby union and cricket seem intent on running their players into the ground all year long, league ensures its players have plenty of rest and time to work on their skills and fitness. St Helens are a marvellous example of the benefits such an approach can bring.

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