Tomkins just too much for Salford to handle

Wigan 52 Salford 18

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The Independent Online

Wigan remain on course for a Super League and Challenge Cup double as another Sam Tomkins-inspired attacking performance proved far too much for Salford's flimsy defence.

Tomkins scored four tries, the last in the final seconds a virtuoso effort worth the price of admission alone. Brett Finch also had arguably his best game since joining the club, having a hand in a series of tries. "It was one of many good games from Brett," the Wigan coach, Michael Maguire, said. "He's improving all the time."

On the debit side, Wigan lost their prop forward, Ben Cross, with a broken arm that will rule him out of the final against Leeds at the end of the month. Cross, a surprise signing from Leeds and a surprise candidate for the Cup final side, was taken to hospital and may need an operation to insert a plate, Maguire said.

Wigan were without two other likely members of their Wembley line-up in Paul Deacon and Jeff Lima when they kicked off, but that hardly slowed them down unduly. Without consistently producing their best, they took sufficient advantage of some fallible Salford tackling, with the first-half hat-trick from Sam Tomkins, on the way to his final tally of four, the undoubted highlight.

The game's outstanding young talent struck first in the fourth minute, taking Finch's pass, selling a dummy and gliding over. There was a minor hiccup for Wigan when Pat Richards came off his wing to leave the line open for Danny Williams, and Daniel Holdsworth's conversion briefly put Salford ahead.

Sean O'Loughlin and the highly effective Finch put a stop to that by setting up a try for Andy Coley, before Josh Charnley wrestled his way over in the corner from Joel Tomkins' pass.

The rest of the half was the Sam Tomkins Show. He backed up a jinking run by Finch for one try, and then latched on to Thomas Leuluai's clean break for another. It was support play worthy of Shaun Edwards, to invoke the name of a past Wigan great.

The second half opened with tries from Michael McIlorum and Liam Farrell that underlined Salford's lack of commitment and resolution in defence. Both would have been stopped by a side prepared to put their bodies on the line.

"Our effort to defend our own try-line was non-existent," said a plainly disgruntled Salford coach, Matt Parish. "It certainly showed that we're a long way from where we need to be."

He was not greatly cheered by the fact that his team were rather better with the ball in hand, working two good second-half tries through the former Wigan player, Sean Gleeson, and Williams.

Their Achilles heel of indecisive tackling caught them out again when Joel Tomkins got over, but fittingly it was the younger brother who rounded matters off with a try that was special, even by his standards.

Taking the ball 20 metres out, he took the defence left, cut back and arced around to score in the right-hand corner. "It was one hell of a try," said Maguire. "But every time he has the ball there's excitement."

The coach will also have noted two immaculate pieces of defensive work from his full-back, denying tries to Stefan Ratchford and Williams.

Also worthy of note was a strong display from Gareth Hock, which will have enhanced his Wembley claims, especially in the absence of Cross.

Wigan S.Tomkins; Charnley, J.Tomkins, Carmont, Richards; Finch, Leuluai; Mossop, McIlorum, Coley, Hansen, Hoffman, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used Goulding, Cross, Hock, Farrell.

Salford Patten; Broughton, Henry, Gleeson, Williams; Ratchford, Holdsworth; Cashmere, Smith, Boyle, Anderson, Neal, Wild. Substitutes used Jewitt, Adamson, Paleaaesina, Godwin.

Referee R.Hicks (Oldham).