Rugby League: Offiah is off and running: Connolly and Cowie help Wigan pass Oldham

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The Independent Online
Wigan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38

Oldham . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

WIGAN were goaded by lowly Oldham into playing their best rugby so far this season as they moved into second place in the Stones Bitter Championship.

It was no coincidence that the high quality of Wigan's approach play brought Martin Offiah his first hat-trick since his delayed start to the campaign.

Even without key players like Shaun Edwards, they played with a fluency that has often been missing and which suggested a wealth of try-scoring opportunities in the months to come.

There has been a low murmur of dissatisfaction at Central Park over Offiah's commitment to the cause this season. Yesterday he showed that, given a glimpse of the try- line, his appetite remains as voracious as ever.

Gary Connolly and Neil Cowie, both of whom had admirable games, gave him the chances for his first two, both of which required him to be at his sharpest.

His third was an easier affair, thanks to a quite brilliant pass from the tumbling Kelvin Skerrett to Joe Lydon.

The other positive feature for an expansive Wigan was the form of their loose forward, Phil Clarke, returning for his first game since injuring a shoulder in the third Test against New Zealand.

Clarke looked stronger and more effective than ever, scoring two fine individual tries and figuring heavily in all aspects of play.

Wigan badly needed his first try to settle nerves after Oldham had taken an early lead when Bob Lindner capitalised on excellent handling by Mike Kuiti and Darren Abram.

Offiah's first two tries put Wigan in control, but Oldham hit back when their former Wigan player, Martin Crompton, sent in Charlie McAllister.

Cowie, Barrie-Jon Mather and then Offiah and Clarke crossed for four tries in 12 minutes to enable Wigan to run away before the end. The warning for the rest of the First Division was obvious.

Wigan: Lydon; Ellison (Stevens, 68), Mather, Connolly, Offiah; Panapa, Botica; Skerrett, Hall, Platt, Betts (Cassidy, 62), Cowie, P Clarke.

Oldham: Gibson; Jones, Heslop, Abram (Crompton, 20), McAllister; Strett, Sherratt (Kuiti, 49); J Clarke, Solomona, Kuiti (Tupaea, 17), Goodway (Sherratt, 64), Lindner.

Referee: C Steele (Askham-in-Furness).