Rugby League: Offiah starts ball rolling for Wigan

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Wigan. . .40

Hull. . . .2

A COMMANDING performance in their Silk Cut Challenge Cup preliminary-round tie started Wigan on the familiar Wembley trail again yesterday.

Any theory that Wigan's uncertain league form might carry over into a competition they have won for the last five years survived just the few seconds it took Martin Offiah to cover 90 yards for one of the most spectacular tries of his prolific career.

Offiah, rejuvenated after three weeks of treatment on his shoulder and hamstring, found the ball at his feet in his own 25 after nine minutes. Three precisely weighted kicks and a sprint that showed he was back to his devastating best took him clear and Wigan never looked back.

Frano Botica's three penalties, against one from Hull's Paul Eastwood, had them comfortably in the lead by the time that Hull inflicted a handicap on themselves that made a fightback unthinkable.

Jon Sharp, their loose forward, was sent off in the 31st minute for a high tackle on Offiah which produced another Botica goal. A minute later, Offiah raced through onto Martin Dermott's clever kick ahead and the contest was over.

Wigan added another four tries in a second half during which Andy Dannatt spent 10 minutes in the sin bin for an off-the-ball foul as Hull's discipline became increasingly ragged.

Jason Robinson set up two of those tries, first with a fine run and kick which provided Shaun Edwards with an opportunity and then with an equally incisive break and pass to Botica.

Denis Betts, another playing to his very best form for an impressive Wigan, also claimed two second half tries. The first was a freak, stemming from a Botica penalty attempt, which hit a post and rebounded into play, but the second was the result of lovely handling by Edwards and Dean Bell that summed up Wigan's superiority on the day.

They might face a battle to retain their First Division title, but with the Lancashire Cup already won, the Regal Trophy final waiting on Saturday and this start to another Wembley campaign, Wigan remain the undisputed kings of knockout rugby.

Wigan: Hampson (Lydon, 26); Panapa, Bell, Farrar, Offiah (Hampson, 56); Botica, Edwards; Cowie (Gildart, 51), Dermott, Gildart (Robinson, 26), Betts, McGinty, Clarke.

Hull: Gay; Eastwood, Grant, R Nolan, Donkin; Gale, Henjak; Dannatt (Wilson, 69), L Jackson, Walker (Jones, 29), Wilson (Divet, 29), A Jackson, Sharp.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).