RUGBY LEAGUE : Botica buoys depleted Wigan

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The Independent Online
Doncaster 10

Wigan 28

Wigan's gamble of playing a league match in the week of a major final paid off handsomely as they returned to their familiar position on top of the First Division last night.

Starting a match at Tattersfield without six of the players they would hope to have on duty in the Regal Trophy final on Saturday looked a risky proposition until Jason Robinson settled Wigan's nerves after 14 minutes.

He took advantage of Craig Murdock and Va'aiga Tuigmala's neat handling to go in at the corner and Frano Botica landed his conversion from the touchline, soon adding a penalty for offside. Botica also began the incisive move carried on by Phil Clarke that brought Denis Betts a second Wigan try .

Botica's second conversion built a handy Wigan lead but Doncaster have not lacked spirit during a difficult campaign so far, and they hit back through their scrum-half, Barry Eaton, who was awarded a penalty try, converted by Alex Green, when he was obstructed chasing his own kick through.

Before half-time, however, Tuigamala again squeezed out his pass to let Robinson in for his second try, once more improved by Botica.

An enforced change of referee at half-time did not bring any change of fortune for Doncaster. In fact, it was a decision given against them for trying to milk a penalty that allowed Wigan to sweep the ball across field for Henry Paul to send in Paul Atcheson for another try.

Doncaster still would not lie down and Tony Zelei fooled the Wigan defence with a kick that he followed up to touch down.

A Wigan performance notable for the championship debut of Scott Quinnell that revealed plenty of rough edges, especially in his handling, was rounded off by another two Botica penalties. Wigan still have a great deal of work to do on Quinnell before he can be considered a feasible successor to the likes of Betts and Clarke, although they can point to the successful transition of the influential Tuigamala.

Even when Doncaster lost Sonny Whakarau to the sin-bin, they never let their illustrious visitors run away with a match that left them with some wear and tear to take into their appointment with Warrington.

Doncaster had the consolation of a 4,506 crowd to help them through their continuing financial crisis and they will also know that if they play this well against teams of lesser stature they will have little difficulty in amassing the points to consolidate their First Division place.

Doncaster: Hayes; Williamson, Zelei, Evans, Rothwell, Green, Eaton, Jackson (Thornton, 52, Linguard, 74), Carlyle, Matautia (Ellis, 52), Whakarau, Miller (Matautia, 57).

Wigan: Atcheson; Robinson, Tuigamala (Connolly, h-t), Paul, Radlinski, Botica, Murdock, McDermott, Hall, Cassidy, Betts (Haughton, h-t), Quinnell, Clarke (Tuigamala, 65).

Referee: R Tennant (Castleford).