Late strike by Newton hands Wigan welcome win

Wigan Warriors 20 Salford City Reds 10
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The Independent Online

Two late tries gave Wigan a flattering victory over Salford after they had struggled to overcome the newly promoted side.

Wigan looked like a team with too many of their stars missing and opposition more attuned to life in Super League would have made them pay for some repeated failings in most aspects of their play.

"We've played poorly and we've come up with two points," was the honest appraisal of the coach, Mike Gregory. "There were quite a few average performances out there for us." Wigan got away with it because they still had the know-how to grab the late points that broke a 10-all deadlock.

Chris Melling, making his first team debut, produced the break that caught Salford offside. Gareth Hock was held up over the line and Terry Newton, who had earlier had a similar effort disallowed, this time managed to plant the ball over the whitewash.

Salford were still playing with considerable resourcefulness, with Gavin Clinch's kicking game troubling Wigan, but they were finally edged out of it four minutes from time when a knock-on conceded a scrum and Sean O'Loughlin, the home side's best player by a distance, picked up at the base to ghost through for his second try of the afternoon.

A 10-point margin made it look a lot more comfortable than it had been for a Wigan side which sparked only fitfully.

Salford, who beat Widnes in their first Super League game of the season, started this one well, too. On their first attack Clinch, the former Wigan scrum-half, kicked high for the corner and the Wigan-born full-back Anthony Stewart plucked it out of the air to score.

Wigan took the lead when the otherwise admirable Karl Fitzpatrick fumbled Danny Orr's low kick and Martin Aspinwall pounced to score, with Orr adding the goal.

They looked to be taking control before half-time when the outstanding O'Loughlin found a gap, but Salford still gave them all sorts of problems after the interval with their ability to offload the ball in the tackle.

"We troubled Wigan for long, long periods and for a lot of the game we were the better team," said the Salford coach, Karl Harrison. His men looked capable of going on to win the game when Simon Baldwin squeezed a wonderful pass out to Stuart Littler for a try which, with Chris Charles's goal, tied the scores.

Harrison was bitterly disappointed that they failed to win it from there. "But we're not going to be the pushovers that people thought," he said.

* The winger Lesley Vainikolo continued his devastating start to the season with two more tries as Bradford bounced back from their Powergen Challenge Cup defeat by St Helens to beat a determined Wakefield side 40-6, thanks to 30 unanswered points in the second half.

Wigan: Radlinski; Aspinwall, Wild, Brown, Dallas; Orr, Robinson; O'Connor, Newton, C Smith, Hock, Tickle, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: Sculthorpe, M Smith, Pongia, Melling.

Salford: Stewart; Kirk, Naylor, Beverley, Littler; Fitzpatrick, Clinch; Coley, Alker, Highton, Shipway, Rutgerson, Moana. Substitutes used: Baldwin, Haggerty, Johnson, Charles.

Referee: I Smith (Oldham.)