Rugby League: Offiah treble inspires Wigan

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Wigan . . . . . .38

Halifax. . . . . .0

Wigan have the scent of a fifth successive Championship in their nostrils after one of their most assured performances of the season, highlighted by a hat-trick from Martin Offiah, took them to the top of the First Division last night.

A below-strength Halifax side looked vulnerable from the outset, and only a flying tackle from Graeme Hallas kept out Va'aiga Tuigamala after Offiah's break had caused panic. Within the first two minutes, however, Wigan were ahead. Gary Lord dropped the ball in his own 25 and the home backs moved it rapidly along the line for Offiah to cross in the corner.

Wigan have been much criticised this season for failing to use their wings, but they did so to good effect again after 11 minutes. Tuigamala remains frighteningly raw but his strength and Mick Cassidy's effervescent running created the chance before Gary Connolly sent Offiah away to turn the ball back inside for Shaun Edwards to score.

Wigan could not sustain that sparkle but they remained in control and Cassidy confirmed his status as one of the discoveries of the season with a glorious run through the heart of the Halifax defence before passing to Neil Cowie, who scored at leisure to leave Frano Botica an easy second conversion.

Wigan's first try of the second half was started by a magnificent run by Andy Farrell, who found Botica in support. His pass released Offiah, who had cut across from the opposite wing, for an outstanding try.

The next was almost as good, Edwards' long ball picking out Sam Panapa, who timed his pass perfectly for Phil Clarke. Botica added another penalty when Lee Harland pushed Edwards out of sheer frustration as Wigan ran Halifax ragged.

Offiah then turned try-maker with a classy piece of play in midfield, dummying to Edwards and then finding Botica on the wing. Five minutes from time Offiah completed his hat- trick, after a flowing move from a scrum near the Halifax line that typified Wigan's enterprise and skill.

Wigan: Atcheson; Tuigamala, Panapa, Connolly, Offiah; Botica, Edwards; Skerrett (Lydon, 54), Dermott (Farrell, 18), Platt, Cassidy, Cowie, Clarke.

Halifax: Hampson; Bentley, Schuster, Hallas (Lay, 46), Sharp; Hagan, Robinson; Lord, Lawless, Harland (Perrett, 70), Jackson, Perrett (Hancock, 33), Divorty.

Referee: J Holdsworth (Kippax).

The Championship contenders, Bradford, will move their stand-off, Neil Summers, to full-back for tonight's match at home to Castleford.

Sheffield Eagles say they will comply with the Rugby League Council's decision and pay the Australian club, Canterbury, a fee for Bruce McGuire.