Rugby League: Farrell makes the difference as Wigan reach the final

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The Independent Online
Wigan 22

Sheffield 10

Wigan qualified for the Stones Premiership Final, but not with the ease that they suggested at one stage, being grateful for the cool head of Andy Farrell as Sheffield showed in the second half just how much they have improved over the season.

A comfortable half-time lead was whittled down by determined opponents and, if Sheffield had made more of their early chances and Wigan had not had a commanding figure like Farrell, who will today be named as Great Britain captain against Australia, it could have been a very different story.

Wigan were apparently on their way to Old Trafford by the end of the first-half, although there had been opportunities for Sheffield at the opening and close of that half to put a whole different complexion on the match.

The game was still scoreless when David Mycoe spoiled a fine break by inexcusably refusing to pass to either of the men in support. A minute before the break Johnny Lawless lunged for the line and lost the ball in the process. In between though Wigan dominated, scoring three tries to take firm control of affairs.

Soon after Mycoe's blunder, a wonderful break from Farrell, supported by Gary Connolly, saw Jason Robinson sprint for the line. Although he was tackled before he got there, his momentum took him over.

Robinson also figured prominently in the second try, making the initial break and then retrieving the ball from Kris Radlinski's lob to send Andy Johnson over.

The power of Simon Haughton took him over for the third try as he took the ball 10 yards out and drove low for the line.

With the ubiquitous Farrell kicking four goals - bringing up a 1,000 points for his career - on top of his huge contribution in general play, Wigan looked anything but a team contemplating ending the season without a major honour for the first time in 13 years.

The substitute Danny McAllister pulled one back for plucky Sheffield after eight minutes of the second-half, then Lawless started alarm bells ringing when after a long period of Eagles pressure he spotted an inviting gap and sped through for a second.

But Farrell calmed any jangling nerves with a penalty and Sheffield, for all Mark Aston's shrewd organisation, could make no further inroads through a solid Wigan defence.

Wigan: Robinson; Ellison, Connolly, Radlinski, A Johnson; Paul Smith, Cowie; Clarke, Hansen, Haughton, Cassidy, Farrow. Substitutes used: Holgate, O'Connor, Wright, Tallec.

Sheffield: Sovatabua; Pinkney, Senior, Morganson, Crowther; Mycoe, Aston; Broadbent, Lawless, Thompson, Turner, Carr, Doyle. Substitutes used: Vassilakopoulos, McAllister, Laughton, Taewa.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).