Rugby League: Farrell keeps Wigan's trophy cabinet stocked

Wigan 33 St Helens 20
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The Independent Online
Yet another towering performance from Andy Farrell made certain that the unthinkable prospect of Wigan finishing the domestic season without a trophy for the first time in 13 years was averted.

Farrell had a hand in all five Wigan tries as they pulled away from Saints to win the Stones Premiership in convincing style at Old Trafford yesterday.

With the Great Britain captain at the helm, Wigan overcame the potentially disruptive loss of two of their other Test players, Gary Connolly and Tony Smith, to score three dazzling tries in 11 minutes of the second half and decide the contest.

There is no aspect of the game at which Farrell does not shine, but it was his ability to open a defence with a long pass that created this onslaught.

Having worked out that Kris Radlinski and Simon Haughton on the left of a reshuffled Wigan back line was capable of giving Saints problems, Farrell exploited that area ruthlessly.

His ball to Haughton set up Radlinski for one try, then an absolute picture book effort began with Farrell and went, via Radlinski and Haughton, back to him for a 20-yard sprint to the line.

Rounding off that devastating spell, Farrell again linked with Radlinski to set up Haughton and the game was, for all practical purposes, over.

"I'm not too sure that Wigan were a better team than us," said Saints' coach, Shaun McRae. "But Andy Farrell was absolutely sensational. Put him on our side and we win the ball game."

Farrell tormented McRae's men from the start, spotting a gap where Anthony Sullivan had left his wing as early as the third minute and kicking through with unforgiving precision for Andy Johnson to run through and score.

Farrell kicked the first of his six goals from a penalty, but Saints' opportunism kept them in the game when Derek McVey took Sean Long's pass and rolled through Jason Robinson's tackle to touch down.

Farrell's stubbed kick eluded Danny Arnold for Robinson to pounce, but a sudden flash of Paul Newlove's quality kept Saints in contention.

A further penalty from Farrell and a drop goal from Nigel Wright edged Wigan into a seven-point lead which the Farrell-inspired blitz expanded to 23.

Saints' chances had long gone when they came back with two tries in the last five minutes through Paul Anderson and Karle Hammond.

But a contented smile had already started to spread across Eric Hughes' features by that time, as his present club had firmly established its superiority over the one that sacked him.

There was an extra satisfaction in those circumstances, Hughes agreed, but he insisted that he had been just as thrilled by Wigan's under-19s winning the Academy Challenge Cup the previous day. In that side, the world should be warned, were Andy Farrell's two younger brothers.

St Helens: Arnold; Stewart, Hunte, Newlove, Sullivan; Hammond, Long; Leathem, Cunningham, O'Neill, Perelini, McVey, Joynt. Substitutes: Pickavance, Booth, Morley, Anderson.

Wigan: Robinson; Ellison, Connolly, Radlinski, Johnson; Paul, Smith; Cowie, Clarke, Hansen, Haughton, Cassidy, Farrell. Substitutes: Wright, Halgate, O'Connor, Tallec.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).