Rugby League: Betts enjoys his return to Wigan

Wigan 22 St Helens 10
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AFTER a little clanking and clashing of gears, John Monie's Wembley juggernaut started to roll forward ominously yesterday.

Monie, who never lost a Silk Cut Challenge Cup tie during his first, four-year stint with the club, saw that record preserved at Central Park. The current holders of the trophy did enough to cast doubt on its continuance for two-thirds of the match, but were eventually ground down.

"There is a lot of improvement in this side," said Monie afterwards. Not everything functioned smoothly and the cohesion that the game has come to expect of his teams was sadly lacking on occasion.

But, as the game went on, Wigan looked progressively stronger, with tries from Simon Haughton and Denis Betts - in his first game back with his old club - the home side showing that they are once more a formidable outfit.

Saints survived a typical early onslaught from Monie's side to be the more incisive team in the first half. They scored one memorable try, when Anthony Sullivan - on his wrong wing - scorched down the touchline and found Chris Smith in support, and might have had a better lead than their six points.

But, as half-time approached, Wigan gradually got their measure, Andy Farrell's long pass sending in Danny Moore for the converted try that tied the scores.

Moore was also heavily involved in the try six minutes into the second half that put them ahead for the first time, bursting out of his own 20 to set up a try for Jason Robinson that was just as spectacular as Saints' opener.

A pass from Henry Paul that Moore could not hold gave Saints their route back into the match, however, Paul Newlove capitalising on the error to send Sullivan over, with Bobbie Goulding's conversion hitting the bar to leave Wigan in the lead.

In theory, the match could have swung either way during the untidy period that followed, but Wigan, with Betts performing mightily in his first match for almost six months, had the force with them.

Haughton, thriving on having his old mentor back alongside him, picked up a ball that came out of Neil Cowie's grasp to power his way over, and Betts celebrated like a newcomer to the thrill of scoring when he followed Tony Smith for the clincher.

It had not always been the most assured of displays, but now that Wigan have cleared this hurdle, few would bet against them resuming their interrupted dominance of this competition.

Wigan: Radlinski; Bell, Connolly, Moore, Robinson; Paul, T Smith; Mestrov, McCormack, Holgate, Cassidy, Haughton, Farrell. Substitutes used: O'Connor, Cowie, Gilmour, Betts.

St Helens: Atcheson; C Smith, Haigh, Newlove, Sullivan; Martyn, Goulding; Golspink, Cunningham, O'Neill, Joynt, Sculthorpe, Hammond. Substitutes used: Long, Perelini, Pickavance, Anderson.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).