Wigan ease pain of life after Farrell

Wigan 22 St Helens 20
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The Independent Online

It could have been one of the more depressing days to be a Wigan supporter, against a St Helens side whose recent form was as compelling as Wigan's had been patchy, and with their former captain, Andy Farrell, gone to rugby union.

It could have been one of the more depressing days to be a Wigan supporter, against a St Helens side whose recent form was as compelling as Wigan's had been patchy, and with their former captain, Andy Farrell, gone to rugby union.

Instead, in front of a record Super League crowd of 25,004, the future suddenly looked in safe hands. Saints scored four tries to three, but Wigan's sheer defiance earned them their victory. By the end of the game they were without Sean McLaughlin and Danny Sculthorpe, Danny Orr's painkilling injection on his shoulder had worn off and several others were hobbling. "We're putting our bodies on the line and getting hurt,'' said a proud coach, Denis Betts. "But the pain is a little bit less at the moment."

Not that Saints were immune, Jamie Lyon was taken to hospital with suspected heatstroke and Mark Edmondson fainted in the changing rooms. It was that sort of match.

Saints' Ian Millward talked of two contentious decisions. First Ade Gardner was pulled back for a Wigan knock-on when the referee, Ian Smith, might have allowed advantage. Then Keith Mason was penalised for slipping the ball out of a completed tackle. "The speed of other people involved in the game isn't good enough,'' Millward said. From that penalty, Danny Tickle levelled the score. Then Gardner needlessly conceded a drop-out. Nick Fozzard was penalised for knocking the ball out of Terry Newton's hands and another Tickle penalty sealed the result.

Wigan had started with two quick tries. Orr and Kris Radlinski paved the way for the first, sending Tickle over for a try which he converted himself, and then Radlinski crossed to score.

Wigan were looking dangerous again until Martin Aspinwall conceded a careless forward pass. Saints sensed their opportunity and Keiron Cunningham powered over.

Wigan continued to ride their luck when a loose pass from Newton was turned into something better by David Vaealiki and Brett Dallas went in at the corner. With Tickle's conversion Wigan were 12 points up.

Saints then scored three tries in little more than 10 minutes. Jamie Lyon scored first before Jon Wilkin crossed and Cunningham forced his way over. Saints' only failing was their kicking, with Lyon converting one of those three tries to leave them with a two-point lead at half-time. It was not enough.

Wigan: Radlinski; Dallas, Wild, Vaealiki, Aspinwall; Brown, Orr; Seu Seu, Newton, Guisset, Hansen, Tickle, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: Godwin, Sculthorpe, Allen, Beswick.

St Helens: Wellens; Albert, Lyon, Gilmour, Gardner; Roby, Long; Fozzard, Cunningham, P Anderson, Graham, V Anderson, Wilkin. Substitutes used: Edmondson, Bennett, Mason, Moore.

Referee: I Smith (Oldham)

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