Wigan 18 Harlequins 30: Wigan's latest loss leaves Noble with plenty to ponder

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The Independent Online

Wigan must hope that Brian Noble was not in the crowd heavily disguised to watch them become more securely cemented to the foot of Super League or he might have second thoughts about what is euphemistically called the challenge at the JJB.

The Wigan chairman, Maurice Lindsay, interviewed the Bradford coach for their vacant coaching job on Easter Sunday and hopes that he will formally accept after the Bulls' game against Huddersfield tonight.

A seventh straight Super League defeat against the side most directly in their sights at the start of the Easter programme showed how deep-seated the problems are. They are now five points behind Harlequins and four adrift at the bottom with relegation looming as a very real possibility.

Wigan's misfortunes started early with Thomas Leuluai's kick bouncing cruelly away from Chris Ashton to give Luke Dorn an easy try. That was the signal for the London side to produce some exhibition stuff with their creative core of Leuluai, Dorn and Mark McLinden combining fluently with the impressive hooker Chad Randall.

It was Randall who supplied the floated pass for Matt Gafa to claim their second after a sustained spell of brilliant handling and the game was still only 13 minutes old when McLinden sent Dorn sidestepping through some flat-footed Wigan defence for his second and a 16-point lead.

There was a brief respite when Wigan grabbed a fortunate try, Dennis Moran having the ball knocked out of his grasp but being allowed to play on, pick up and score, but Bryn Hargreaves put his side under pressure once more by losing the ball from the restart.

There was an air of inevitability about the way that the Quins swarmed forward and Randall's miss-out pass sent Rikki Sheriffe into a vacant corner.

Harlequins went close three times in three minutes, including Dorn being denied his hat-trick for offside, before Jordan James scored for Wigan from Sean O'Loughlin's pass.

The possibility of a Wigan resurgence was snuffed out on either side of half-time with tries from David Mills and Tyrone Smith further exposing the lack of real commitment in their defence. The game died at that point, although O'Loughlin did a little cosmetic work for Wigan with a try from Micky Higham's clever pass.

After O'Loughlin had been placed on report for a high tackle on Mark Tookey, Kevin Brown got another in the last minute, but the damage had been done long before that.

"The team has got a tremendous amount of potential,'' said Wigan's caretaker coach, Stuart Wilkinson. "But there's a lot of work to be done.'' Noble, if he was lurking in a false nose and moustache, will be all too well aware of that.

Wigan: Moran; Ashton, Gleeson, Richards, Dallas; Brown, Orr; Hargreaves, Higham, Wilkes, Tickle, Jonkers, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: Godwin, James, Palea'aesina, O'Carroll.

Harlequins: McLinden; Sheriffe, Gafa, Smith, Bradley-Qalilawa; Dorn, Leuluai; Mills, Randall, Heckenberg, Purdham, Hopkins, Mbu. Substitutes used: Budworth, Tookey, Williams, Luisi.

Referee: P Bentham (Warrington).