Richards helps to advance Noble's cause

Hull KR 16 Wigan 30
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The Independent Online

If Brian Noble is in his last days as Wigan's coach, he is bowing out by doing what he does best – timing his team's run to finish the season at their strongest. Two late tries from Martin Gleeson took the Warriors to within 80 minutes of the Grand Final, repelling a Rovers fightback in the first truly compelling contest of the play-off series. The Robins will know that a first half in which they froze cost them their chance of progressing.

After Michael Dobson had missed a chance to put Rovers ahead with a horribly miscued penalty, Wigan dominated the rest of the first half. Their first try owed much to the way their player of the year, Sam Tomkins, tackled Peter Fox over his line to force a drop-out. From that possession, the referee, Richard Silverwood, awarded one of many penalties for holding down in the tackle. George Carmont subsequently went over from Cameron Phelps' pass.

Pat Richards missed the conversion but the Australian winger edged Wigan further ahead with a penalty before Iafeta Palea'aesina gave them an extra fillip. Held up on the line from one barging run, he got over from another. Richards added the goal.

Rovers had shown nothing of the form that brought them fourth place in Super League and they went further behind before the break. Again a holding down penalty put them on the defensive and Sean O'Loughlin's perfectly timed pass allowed Richards to force his way through two tacklers at the corner. The winger, who had just narrowly missed with a 52-metre penalty, landed his third goal to complete a commanding 40 minutes' work from Noble's men.

Rovers came roaring back after the break with a glorious try which was set up by Clint Newton and Jake Webster breaking down the right and then finished by Kris Welham on the right. Suddenly they were a team with belief once more and they soon scored again, through Fox. When Chaz I'Anson reached over the line for their third try, all the momentum was with the home side. But then Paul Prescott got the ball to Gleeson for the centre's first try with 17 minutes left to play.

That steadied Wigan and they made sure of their place in the last four with Gleeson's second try, from a last-minute scrum. The final scoreline was not a fair reflection of how tough it had been in that second half, but Wigan's best performance of the season will surely make Leeds hesitate before picking them as their semi-final opponents.

Hull Kingston Rovers Briscoe; Fox, Webster, Welham, Colbon; Cooke, Dobson; Fozzard, Fitzhenry, Vella, Newton, Galea, Murrell. Substitutes used: Wheeldon, Lovegrove, Netherton, I'Anson.

Wigan Phelps; Roberts, Gleeson, Carmont, Richards; S Tomkins, Leuluai; Coley, Riddell, Prescott, J Tomkins, Hansen, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: Fielden, Palea'aesina, McIlorum, Flanagan.

Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).