Life is a ball for Cherries

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The Independent Online
Wigan can add another title, apart from the Middlesex Sevens which they won in such style yesterday, to the numerous accolades they have collected over the last decade. They are the team that emptied the car parks at Twickenham.

Wigan showed their mastery of everything that falls roughly under the banner of rugby by thrashing Wasps to become the first rugby league side to win the event as well as the first to take part.

But they had made their mark on the occasion long before that. During the early rounds of the tournament they were the only thing that could persuade spectators at rugby union's social event of the year to break the habits of a lifetime and actually watch the rugby.

Uniquely for an event at which there is generally more action outside the stadium than inside it, there was a buzz of anticipation every time the interlopers in cherry and white hoops trod the once forbidden turf.

Pints were left half drunk, barbecues abandoned as empty seats suddenly sprouted bodies. Some of them were from the little knots of Wigan supporters who had been doing a spot of tail-gating themselves. Most were hurrying back to their places in the hopes of seeing Wigan beaten.

That was not a case of any lingering resentment against outsiders from an alien code; more a matter of wanting to see the favourites beaten because they are too damned good.

By semi-final time, Twickenham was full to the 61,000 capacity imposed for the tournament, but it might not have been if Wigan had not been taking part. Middlesex Sevens' veterans tell of declining appeal in recent years, but Wigan's involvement turned all that around, not only swelling the crowd but giving the whole occasion its focus.

Wigan's influence looked unlikely to extend to actually winning the thing when they trailed 15-0 to Wasps in the final having barely touched the ball.

But they seized hungrily on their scraps of possession and ran their opponents' legs off in the second half. Martin Offiah brought his try tally for the tournament to six, but the dominant figure was Andrew Farrell, who showed what mobility and ball skill in a forward are all about. That, and many other aspects of Wigan's play, were an eye opener for the crowd lured from the car parks, full of expectation as they already were.