Rugby League: Botica proves his value

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The Independent Online
Wigan. . . .14

Widnes. . . .2

AN outstanding defensive performance from Wigan last night, and two tries when Widnes gave them inviting opportunities, were enough to bring a win that suggests they are on the way back to their formidable best.

An opening period as fierce and evenly balanced as anything the two sides have recently produced against each other was ended by the sort of mistake to which Widnes remain prone.

They lost the ball in trying to handle their way out of their 25 when Paul Moriarty's pass sat up obligingly for Joe Lydon. Frano Botica, back in the Wigan side after injury, arrived to outflank the Widnes back line and then emphasised his double value to his side by kicking an excellent conversion.

Widnes should have hit back when their old warhorse, Kurt Sorensen, split the defence with a pounding run. But he passed a little too early for David Hulme, playing in the unfamiliar position of loose forward, and the chance was lost.

Widnes did get on the scoreboard when Shaun Edwards tackled Tony Myler from an offside position near the try-line and Jonathan Davies kicked a simple penalty. On the stroke of half-time, however, Widnes could only end Wigan's best attack of the half with a high tackle by Andy Currier on Martin Crompton and Botica duly restored the six-point advantage.

Wigan failed to stretch that lead when Botica missed with an attempt at a drop goal. But a disciplined tackling display by their forwards backed up by the immaculate defensive positioning of Steve Hampton made it look increasingly as though a six-point gap would suffice.

Widnes, urged on with predictable fury by the former Wigan scrum-half, Bobby Goulding, threw off their weariness to charge headlong at Wigan in the final quarter. But they could not break through, and the closest to a further score came when Joe Lydon hit a post with a drop-goal attempt.

Finally, Wigan emphasised their superiority with a try by Martin Offiah in the last minute, after a kick from Jonathan Davies reached him with an inviting gap in front of him. That put the match beyond doubt, but it had been Wigan's defensive commitment and organisation that had truly won the day.

Wigan: Hampson; Lydon, Bell, Farrar, Offiah; Botica (Robinson, 57), Edwards; Skerrett, Crompton (Botica, 70), Platt, Betts, McGinty (Panapa, 57), Clarke.

Widnes: Davies; Currier, Spruce, Devereux, Hadley; Myler, Goulding; Sorensen (Howard, 25; Sorenson for Howard, 45), P Hulme (McCurrie, 35), Faimalo (Howard, 59), Moriarty (Faimalo, 75), Eyres, D Hulme.

Referee: C Morris (Huddersfield).

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