Rugby League: Paul makes the difference

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The Independent Online
London Broncos 15 Wigan 18

THE SUPER League leaders again showed the boundless competitiveness that makes them so difficult to beat, although London tried everything they knew.

On a night that showed what rugby league in the capital should be about, a late moment of magic from Henry Paul and Andy Farrell's reliable goalkicking made a difference between two perfectly matched sides.

As at Halifax last week, Wigan started rather slowly, but this time the damage was limited to conceding one try.

It came as a result of a rare double blemish from Jason Robinson, first handing over possession with a knock-on and, after Tulsen Tollett had made the telling break from full-back, missing his tackle to allow Glen Air to slip through for the touchdown.

London could only reproach themselves for the way in which they allowed Wigan to wipe out that try, hanging off Tony Smith's diagonal run for long enough to provide him with the chance to force the ball down, despite the presence, by then, of three tacklers.

Farrell missed that conversion but gave Wigan the lead with a penalty after Robbie McCormack's break had put the Broncos under pressure.

Steele Retchless seemed to have prevented Wigan from extending that lead when his ankle tap stopped Denis Betts on his way to the line. Wigan managed to keep the ball alive, however, and Mark Bell finally cashed in with a clever kick that he pursued and re-gathered to take over the try line.

Farrell was on the mark and Wigan's grip on the game seemed to tighten as their suffocating defence kept all London's best attacks at bay.

A try out of nothing dragged the Broncos back into it before half-time, Tollett kicking on the last tackle and Bell's fumble serving the ball up conveniently for the former Wigan winger, Wes Cotton.

Robbie Beazley, relegated to substitute for this game, came off the bench to prove his point by darting over for a try to level the scores three minutes into the second half.

If London could have landed their goal-kicks they would have been in the lead but they had to wait for the excellent Tollet to register a single point with a drop goal. On a night when he could do little wrong, he also took over the penalty kicking and put over the shot that sent London three points clear.

But then Paul skipped away from the London tacklers, including a lunging Tollet, for virtually the first time in the match and Gary Connolly's pass sent Bell over for his second try.

Farrell demonstrated once more how to kick goals from the touchline and Wigan, despite a couple of late alarms, weathered the last 10 minutes for another hard-earned victory.

London Broncos: Tollett; Smyth, Timu, Ryan, Cotton; Air, Edwards; Young, Williams, Carroll, Gill, Retchless, Matterson. Substitutes used: Dunford, Beazley, Millard.

Wigan: Radlinski; Bell, Moore, Connolly, Robinson; Paul, Smith; Cowie, McCormack, Mestrov, Betts, Haughton, Farrell. Substitutes used: Cassidy, O'Connor, Gilmour.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).

n Despite taking a 6-0 lead Huddersfield, bottom of Super League, fell to another heavy defeat at the Don Valley Stadium last night. The Sheffield Eagles retaliated to go into the interval 26-6 ahead. They continued to punish the visitors in the second half, scoring nine tries in all, including a hat-trick from Bright Sodje. With Mark Aston adding 10 goals the home side ran out 56-10 winners.

n The Rugby Football League has affirmed that this autumn's Test series against New Zealand will go ahead as planned. Doubts were raised by the New Zealand RL president, Gerald Ryan, who is angry that several Super League clubs are set to prevent English-based Kiwis playing in two Tests against Australia on the eve of the British series. That would contravene international rules but representatives from all the major rugby league- playing nations are hoping to work out a solution at a meeting in Sydney later this month.

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