Rugby League: Peters proves Wigan's missing link

Wigan Warriors 30 St Helens 16
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The Independent Online
STEVE RENOUF scored a match-clinching try on his Wigan debut but, on a day of new beginnings, it was an old hero who showed his value for the coming season. Andy Farrell did not cross the line himself, but laid on five of his side's six tries and showed the full range of his kicking game in a masterful display. The question with Farrell has never been over his ability, of course, but whether Wigan can put the right players around him to bring out the best.

There were encouraging early signs yesterday that, in Willie Peters, Wigan may have found such a player. The scrum-half, a revelation with Gateshead Thunder last season, immediately struck up a productive understanding with his new captain. "I loved it," said Peters after his first 80 minutes as a Wigan player. "He's a world-class player and we had a word beforehand about what we were going to do and struck up a good combination."

That was first in evidence after seven minutes when Peters' pass and Farrell's ability to draw in the defence sent Jason Robinson away for the game's first try, improved by Farrell.

The Super League champions, St Helens, with more of their first-choice players missing than Wigan, came back with a try from Steve Hall before the game entered an untidy phase from which it only emerged when Tommy Martyn scored a dazzling individual try to put them ahead. It is Martyn's place that is under threat from Saints' new signing, Darrell Trindall, who missed this game with a shoulder injury, but he underlined his ability with a break straight from the scrum that left Wigan flatfooted.

Sean Long kicked the goal, but Wigan drew level when Farrell's perfect pass off his hip sent Simon Haughton striding through for the first of his two.

Shortly after that, Renouf made his entry. However, he had no opportunity to get involved in the game before Long put Saints in the lead at half- time with a penalty. Farrell's glorious break and sweetly timed pass to Paul Johnson restored Wigan's advantage, until Anthony Stewart did remarkably well to stand in the tackle and return the ball to Long for Saints' third try.

The rest was all Wigan. Farrell's cleverly angled kick sent Kris Radlinski over, then Renouf, playing his first game for almost six months, forced his way through from dummy-half to open his Wigan account.

Robinson appeared to be on his way for his second but was thwarted by a remarkable chase from Bryan Henare, but Wigan rounded it off when Farrell again sent Simon Haughton through eight minutes from time.

For Dean Bell, coaching until the arrival of Frank Endacott next month, it had been a worthwhile exercise and the enduring appeal of this fixture was emphasised by a gate which, at more than 16,000, was double last season's average for competitive games and the biggest at the new JJB Stadium for football or rugby.

Wigan Warriors: Radlinski; Bretherton, Gilmour, Johnson, Robinson; Chester, Peters; Mestrov, Newton, O'Connor, Cassidy, Betts, Farrell. Substitutes used: Renouf, Jones, Davies, Haughton, Ball, Hodgson.

St Helens: Atcheson; Smith, Stewart, Hoppe, Hall; Martyn, Long; Perelini, Wellens, Nickle, Joynt, Henare, Sculthorpe. Substitutes used: Stankevitch, Edmondson, Jonkers, Barrow, Price.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).