Newton leads rout as Widnes fall to earth

Widnes 8 Wigan 56
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The Independent Online

Wigan made light of their heavy workload and the threadbare pack they are currently reduced to putting on the pitch by sweeping Widnes aside at the Halton Stadium.

Terry Newton led the way with four tries, but this was an impressive team effort, with any number of players lifting their performances to make up for the men who were missing, including Andy Farrell for the whole of the second half.

Widnes went into the game with every reason to hope they might be able to repeat their victory at roughly the same stage as last season - a result which cost Stuart Raper his job as Wigan coach.

For one thing, Wigan were involved in an exceptionally hard-fought game at Hull in midweek. For another, Widnes had the former Wigan scrum-half, Willie Peters, making his debut and eager to show he can make a crucial difference over the rest of the season.

Equally significant was the way that Wigan are now without three of their four specialist props; there was more than a hint of vulnerability in that equation, surely.

It was all Widnes for the first 10 minutes, with Peters showing a number of promising touches. But then, completely against the run of play, Peters's opposite number, Adrian Lam, found a gap in a Widnes defence which was being asked a question for the first time, and was immediately found wanting.

Two minutes later they were opened up again, initially by Craig Smith's perfect off- load to Danny Orr and then by Orr's reverse pass to send Terry Newton through for the second Wigan try, again converted by Andy Farrell.

Widnes were under pressure again from Lam's 40-20 kick and Sean O'Loughlin put through a finely judged grubber kick for Stephen Wild to reach just before the dead-ball line.

Peters must have wondered what he had let himself in for, especially when he threw a wonderful pass to Adam Hughes, only to see the centre drop the ball. Shane Millard finally got over the line for Widnes, forcing the ball down despite Orr's tigerish attempts to hold it up.

Wigan hit back immediately with a bizarre try, Wild stealing the ball from Deon Bird in the tackle and scrambling away to score before Widnes could react. They were embarrassed again when Farrell got a pass to Orr, who again found Newton in support.

It was a remarkable first half from Wigan, only marred by the sight of the mighty Farrell going off bloodied after a high tackle from Andy Hay had caught him squarely on his recently broken nose.

Danny Tickle, kicking in place of the absent Farrell, edged Wigan further ahead with a penalty at the start of the second half. Jules O'Neill then got a try back for Widnes with Wigan appealing in vain for an obstruction, and Peters's kick and chase could have produced another.

But Wigan roused themselves again for marvellous work from Brett Dallas and Craig Smith to set Newton up for his hat-trick. O'Loughlin then underlined the Widnes defence's problems when he cruised in from long range, closely followed by Newton scoring his fourth with ease from Gary Connolly's pass.

The excellent Orr then exchanged passes to send Mark Smith over and Widnes, not for the first time this season, were on the end of a hiding.

Widnes: C Weston; N Royle, A Moule, A Hughes, C Giles; Jules O'Neill, W Peters; D Mills, S Millard, Julian O'Neill, A Hay, S McCurrie, D Frame. Substitutes used: D Bird, A Hobson, T Wozniak, B Johnson.

Wigan: G Connolly; B Dallas, M Aspinwall, S Wild, L Colbon; D Orr, A Lam; C Smith, T Newton, D Tickle, A Farrell, G Hock, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: M Smith, M Cassidy, D Hodgson, H Hansen.

Referee: I Smith (Oldham).