Wigan win as Halifax falter at the last

Halifax 16 Wigan 30
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The Independent Online

Halifax finished up well beaten by a sporadically impressive Wigan, but had their opportunities to have made this a much closer game.

A revitalised second-half performance saw the Blue Sox get back to 18-10 before failing to take two inviting try-scoring chances. If Colum Halpenny had dropped on a loose ball or Danny Tickle had held on to a pass when put clean through by Andrew Dunemann, the pressure would have been on Wigan.

Instead, they scored two tries of their own and the game was won. "To get back at Wigan from 16 points down is a mighty task, but we almost did it,'' the Halifax coach, Steve Linnane, said. "Danny just doesn't know how he dropped that ball, but he did and it happens.''

Let off the hook, Wigan capitalised on more Halifax handling errors to close the game off. Craig Smith managed to get the ball out of a tackle to set up David Furner's effort and Paul Johnson went through for his second try four minutes from time.

There was still time for Tickle to go over from another Dunemann pass, but it was a chance he squandered rather than the one he took that was the important factor.

Wigan had started in their most convincing form of the season so far, twice exploiting weaknesses down the left-hand side in the first 10 minutes.

Julian O'Neill was involved on both occasions, providing the ball for Johnson to go through some ineffective tackling for the first try and then feeding Johnson again, who passed for Mick Cassidy to score.

When Adrian Lam and Ricky Bibey combined to produce a third Wigan try for Terry Newton, it looked a question of how many, but Halifax hit back with a spectacular try out of the blue just before half time.

The speedy Australian winger, Robbie Beckett, fielded a deep kick from Lam and sent Daryll Cardiss racing away. Although he was caught by Kris Radlinski's tackle, Wigan could not regroup quickly enough to stop Dunemann from scoring.

Halifax took that momentum in the second half with them when they began to show the sort of form that worried St Helens in the Cup last weekend.

The Wigan coach Stuart Raper, insisted, however, that he was never overly concerned. "I thought we were pretty well in control and I never had any sense of panic,'' he said

He might have felt differently if Tickle had hung on to that vital pass. "We had to play very well to beat a very good team that could easily make the top six this season,'' he said. "Our first 40 minutes was the best we have played so far."

Halifax: Cardiss; Beckett, Flowers, Dolman, Halpenny; Dunemann, Clinch; Goldspink, Penkywicz, Hobson, Gannon, McMenemy, Bloem. Substitutes used: Tickle, Thackray, Clayton, Birchall.

Wigan: Radlinski; Dallas, Ainscough, Johnson, Carney; O'Neill, Lam; O'Connor, Newton, C Smith, Cassidy, Furner, Farrell. Substitutes used: Hodgson, Howard, M Smith, Bibey.

Referee: I Smith (Oldham).

* Champions Bradford withstood another committed display by Widnes to win 22-16 and rejoin St Helens at the top of the table. The Vikings, having already taken Saints to the brink of defeat, again proved their promotion was well merited as they forced the Bulls to work hard for their points.