Wigan peer into pressure zone

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The Independent Online

Hull gloriously ended their 10-year wait for a win at Wigan with a 20-18 triumph at the JJB Stadium on Friday night, and in the process left Stuart Raper's men facing an early-season crisis.

Stand-off Richard Horne, who ended the Warriors'12-match run of league wins over the Airlie Birds with a 74th-minute try, was still at junior school when Hull last won in Wigan, courtesy of a one-point, 14-13, victory at Central Park back in September 1992.

Like Central Park, the JJB Stadium was thought to be a fortress for Wigan, particularly after they went through the 2001 season unbeaten on home soil, but last night's surprise result has left Raper's team, of whom much was expected this season, with a worrying record of just one win in three home games.

Three defeats in their opening six games also equals Wigan's worst start to a Super League campaign, matching their 50 per cent return from the first six weeks of 1997. Raper will not want to be reminded that Wigan finished fourth that year and sacked their coach. Perhaps their best hope of silverware is the Challenge Cup, but even victory over outsiders Castleford in the first semi-final at Headingley next Saturday will be no foregone conclusion on the evidence of last night's performance.

A try from stand-off Richard Horne seven minutes from the end enabled Hull to claim the victory which marked a breakthrough for Hull, who let slip promising positions at St Helens and Bradford recently and threatened to do the same when Wigan overturned a14-2 deficit to go 18-14 in front. Their coach, Shaun McRae, said: "When they got it to18-14, I thought jeez, is it going to be one of those days? Are we a 40-minute side?

"I've got to say I think we've played better but we played well enough to win tonight. It was a great show of courage and desperation.

"I'm obviously delighted with the two points but more so because it's the first victory over Wigan away for 10 years. I'm proud that these guys were part of that because it's changed the club history a little bit."

Horne played down his own role in the victory, giving the credit to the Hull pack. "It was a case of being in the right place at the right time," he said. "Our forwards just seemed to get on top of theirs and we managed to turn it around and get them on the back foot."

Wigan were without half their regular back division because of injury, but tries from Kris Radlinski, Brett Dallas and David Hodgson and three goals from the outstanding Andy Farrell looked to have given them the edge.

Raper bemoaned his side's inability to hold on to their lead and criticised his players' lack of mental strength. "We had a poor first half and could have been even further behind, but we did enough in the second half to win the game," he said. "We gave them a sniff to come back and win the game. [Our players] should have had the mental capacity to stay in control. It was more a mental thing than a physical one."

Raper has ruled Paul Johnson out of the semi-final but expects to have Julian O'Neill and Jamie Ainscough back.

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