Rugby League: Botica has Wigan up and running

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WIGAN, aiming for their fifth consecutive championship, got their new coach, John Dorahy, off to a winning start with a 16-8 success against Hull at Central Park yesterday.

The champions began as they will surely go on though, on this occasion, the odds-on title favourites were largely indebted to the boot of Frano Botica who kicked four goals.

Hull, who inflicted a rare defeat on Wigan last season, paid heavily for their indiscipline, conceding far too many penalties as well as having two players sent to the sin-bin.

One of those punished was Richard Gay and Wigan took full advantage of his absence with two tries in five minutes through Jason Robinson and Barrie-Jon Mather.

Royce Simmons, the Hull manager, was critical of the referee after his team also finished on the wrong end of a 12-4 penalty count. 'We had the same referee for a game here last year and were 8-0 down in penalties in the first half,' Simmons said. 'I'm not doubting any of our penalties today, but where were all theirs? He's got to be consistent, although we can't use referees for excuses.'

Paul Newlove, Bradford Northern's new signing, made an immediate impact in his side's 32-18 win over Widnes. The Great Britain centre, signed from Featherstone for a club record fee of pounds 245,000, came to the rescue by initiating a second-half revival by laying on a try for winger Brimah Kebbie.

He then scored himself to launch Northern on a spell of three tries in 12 minutes which transformed the game by putting them 20-12 ahead after 52 minutes. Up to that point, last season's beaten Challenge Cup finalists, had looked far more impressive.

Sonny Nickle and Allan Hunte, of St Helens, were both sent off in a controversial finish at Craven Park which Hull KR won 16-10. Nickle was dismissed after 62 minutes for elbowing an opponent while Hunte followed him seven minutes later for a late tackle.

Saints were level at 10-10 before Nickle was dismissed, and Rovers took full advantage, the pick of their three tries coming from winger Bright Sodje after good work from scrum half Wayne Parker.

Featherstone finished with a flourish, scoring two tries in the closing minutes of their 26-12 win over Leigh. Brendan Tutta, the New Zealand player, scored from close in and, moments from the end, winger Owen Simpson finished off a flowing move.