Rugby League: Cassidy keeps Wigan on track: Warrington's fightback foiled by champion's experience

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The Independent Online
Wigan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21

Warrington . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14

(First Edition)

THE final six minutes at Central Park yesterday ensured that a good Friday for Wigan was followed by an even better Monday.

A drop goal from Frano Botica and an injury-time try from the outstanding Mick Cassidy brought the champions a second Easter victory which, allied with Bradford's defeat by Hull, vastly improves their chances of retaining their title.

Warrington had fought their way back after trailing by 14 points and their momentum seemed to have made them the likelier winners. But they failed to set up a drop goal cleanly enough for Kelly Shelford, and then surrendered the initiative when Lee Penny knocked on Martin Dermott's kick. Wigan's hard-earned expertise enabled them to create the position for Botica to skim his drop kick off the left-hand post.

That would have been enough and would have summed up the closeness of the contest, but the tireless Cassidy took Shaun Edwards' pass to make the win look far more comfortable than it was.

Wigan had begun by looking more assured than they have in a league match for months. Excellent running by Cassidy and Kelvin Skerrett opened the way for Edwards to score a second-minute try that was followed by the first of Botica's four successful place kicks.

Warrington, robbed of the inspiration of Jonathan Davies by a knee injury, were struggling to hold Wigan's forwards, but they hit back after the break. Three times they found flaws in the defence down Wigan's left, first when Penny escaped Martin Offiah's indecisive clutches and Greg Mackey sent in Andy Bennett and then with two touchdowns by Mark Forster.

The position would have been even worse for Wigan but for Iestyn Harris's failure with several kicks and a remarkable piece of defending by their full-back, Paul Atcheson. He made a tackle on Allan Bateman and then somehow got up to stop Penny, the player to whom Bateman had released the ball with apparently perfect timing.

On such moments, and on the ability to sneak in a drop goal off an upright, championships may well hang.

Wigan: Atcheson; Robinson, Mather (Cassidy), Panapa, Offiah; Botica, Edwards; Skerrett (Lydon, 53), Dermott, Platt, Cassidy (Betts, 53), Cowie, Clarke.

Warrington: Penny; Forster, Bateman, Roper, Harris; Ellis, Mackey; Teitzel (Bennett 30), Thursfield, Tees, Jackson (Phillips 7), Sanderson, Shelford.

Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).