Robinson helps Wigan close the gap

Rugby League Wigan 35 St Helens 19
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The Independent Online
Wigan are not going to give up their title as Britain's best side without an almighty struggle. They survived some sticky moments at Central Park last night to earn what was ultimately a convincing victory to take them within a point of St Helens at the top of the Stones Super League.

Saints made a blistering start when Derek McVey, a surprise inclusion so soon after a knee operation, slipped the ball out of the tackle to enable Danny Arnold to gallop down the right wing. Although he was caught by Jason Robinson, Bobbie Goulding was there in support to go the last 20 yards and strike the intial blow against his old club.

Goulding added the goal and then, after Chris Joynt's pass had sent Paul Newlove racing through, landed a drop goal for a seven point lead.

The pressure was on Wigan and a crop of uncharacteristic handling mistakes as they tried to force their way back into the game suggested that they were feeling it. It took a mistake from the St Helens full-back, Steve Prescott, to get Wigan started. His wild pass on the last tackle gave Rob Smyth a chance,which he took despite Anthony Sullivan nearly closing him down.

Henry Paul's goal brought a relieved Wigan within one point. It was just the spur they needed, and within four minutes Martin Offiah and Shaun Edwards had opened Saints up for Robinson to go in at the corner. Four more minutes and quick handling on the last tackle saw Paul send Robinson in for his second. Paul added the goal and then a penalty as Goulding went high on him in the tackle. There was still time before the interval for a fourth Wigan try, begun by Gary Connolly's run from deep and finished by Va'aiga Tuigamala's power near the line.

Saints desperately needed to start the second half as well as they had done the first and they did so when Newlove took Karle Hammond's pass to go 70 yards and score despite Connolly's chase. Goulding's kick went over and St Helens got themselves back in with a chance only to twice knock-on on the first tackle and destroy any chance of regaining their momentum.

Martin Hall, kicking for the injured Paul, stretched Wigan's lead. Tuigamala then flattened a succession of would-be tacklers to present Simon Haughton with a try, Robinson dropped a goal and Chris Morley's late try for Saints was of only psychological value.

Wigan: Robinson; Smyth, Connolly, Tuigamala, Offiah; Paul, Edwards; Cowie, Hall, O'Connor, Haughton, Cassidy, Farrell. Substitutes used: Murdock, Quinnell, Craig, Johnson.

St Helens: Prescott; Arnold, Hunte, Newlove, Sullivan; Hammond, Goulding; Perelini, Cunningham, Fogerty, McVey, Booth, Joynt. Substitutes used: Pickavance, McAtee, Northey, Morley.

Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).