Richards' return puts Wigan in sight of title

Wigan Warriors 38 Salford City Reds 6
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The Independent Online

On the night they welcomed back Pat Richards, Wigan as good as made sure of the League Leaders Trophy. One point from their last two games against Hull KR and St Helens will guarantee them that prize and few except them to fail, especially with Richards back.

The Irish international wingman, out since April with a knee injury, celebrated his return by scoring two tries and setting up another in nine first-half minutes. He also finished with five goals. Wigan might not have been at their best, but one of their match-winners was back in business.

Wigan were desperate to put last weekend's defeat by Warrington behind them and, after an opening 12 minutes in which they made the sort of mistakes that smacked of trying too hard, it was Richards who set them on their way.

He started the attack for the first try with a diagonal run to return a kick and was there to finish it when Brett Finch and George Carmont moved the ball to the left flank. Three minutes later he took a perfect pass from Carmont to race through and set up the supporting Sam Tomkins.

Another thing that Richards gives Wigan is the most tempting of targets for kicks to the wing. There was a case in point when Finch launched a superb cross-kick to find the wingman scandalously unmarked and able to touch down at will.

The only surprise, for a player whose kicking has been badly missed at times, was that he converted only one of his three shots from the touchline. It was also remarkable Salford did not concede any more points in the first half, but that was due to a certain looseness with the ball on Wigan's part.

After the break, Matty Smith cut through to set up Darrell Goulding, while a lovely piece of play from Finch released Jack Hughes. Harrison Hansen added to the score before Sean O' Loughlin completed the damage.

Wigan Tomkins; Charnley, Goulding, Carmont, Richards; Finch, Smith; Lima, McIlorum, Mossop, Hansen, Hock, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used Farrell, Lauaki, Flower, Hughes.

Salford Patten; Broughton, Gleeson, Veivers, Williams; Holdsworth, Howarth; Boyle, Anderson, Sidlow, Adamson, Ashurst, Wild. Substitutes used Neil, Walne, James, Owen.

Referee T Roby (St Helens).