Wigan survive tough test before final

Wigan Warriors 26 Widnes Vikings 8
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Cardiff-bound Wigan received a searching examination before their Challenge Cup final date with St Helens and struggled to overcome a tenacious Widnes. The Vikings, who won at Wigan last season, tackled impressively in a disjointed game littered evenly with 22 penalties and marked by spoiling tactics.

Wigan's fifth successive win was achieved without Terry Newton and Kevin Brown, who missed the game through injury but are expected to be back in contention for a place at the Millennium Stadium. But there was the satisfaction of David Hodgson making a successful try-scoring return from a torn Achilles sustained in a pre-season friendly.

Wigan built a 16-0 lead with three first half tries, though they lost prop Terry O'Connor early on with a sternum injury. The half-backs Danny Orr and Adrian Lam combined slickly to send Stephen Wild crashing over on the right and Hodgson challenged Chris Giles to a pin-point Andrew Farrell kick for Danny Tickle to score. Widnes' 18-year-old debutant prop, Adam Bibey, was sent to the sin-bin for holding down within a minute of coming on and the home side took advantage. Orr raced over unopposed after Craig Smith and Kris Radlinski opened up the Widnes defence.

But the Vikings pulled back to within 10 points at the break when Steve McCurrie's offload cannoned off a Wigan tackler and Deon Bird streaked over from 30 metres. The developing understanding between Orr and Lam, in their fifth game together, augurs well for Wigan's prospects next week and their slick work enabled Wild to usher Hodgson over in the corner within five minutes of the re-start.

But Widnes, who lost a second player, Robert Relf, to the sin-bin for holding down, refused to buckle and Nicky Royle scored in the corner. Royle was then denied a second, following an 80-metre run, by a wonderful Radlinski tackle by the flag before Gareth Hock's close range try completed Wigan's hard earned victory.

The Wigan prop Quentin Pongia was placed on report for a high tackle but their coach, Mike Gregory, felt his player had no case to answer and would be eligible for the final.

Wigan Warriors: Radlinski; Hodgson, Wild, O'Loughlin, Dallas; Orr, Lam; O'Connor, M Smith, Sculthorpe, Tickle, Hock, Farrell. Substitutes used: Colbon, C Smith, Pongia, Cassidy.

Widnes Vikings: Bird; Royle, Hughes, Moule, Giles; Jules O'Neill, Myler; Relf, Wood, Julian O'Neill, Wozniak, Hay, Frame. Substitutes used: Hobson, McCurrie, Finnigan, Bibey.

Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).