Wigan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
WIGAN'S well-honed habit of winning major finals emerged unimpaired yesterday from a trying week as they fought off the challenge of a vastly improved Bradford side.
Even with Deryck Fox inhibited by a groin injury that needed pain- killing injections, Bradford were unrecognisable from the side that conceded 121 points to Wigan in two matches last season.
With the Wigan coach, John Monie, admitting their normally impeccable preparations had been affected by the rumbling dispute over the World Sevens - finally settled by the Australian organisers scratching them from the tournament this weekend - a tough afternoon was always in prospect.
Thanks to the contributions of two players who represent the old and the new faces of Wigan's continuing success story, they proved equal to the task.
Three minutes before half-time, the brilliant running of Jason Robinson, one of Wigan's new guard, and a rush of blood to the head of the Bradford full-back, David Watson, tilted the match their way.
Robinson, signed by Wigan from amateur rugby league virtually in the shadow of Elland Road, began and finished the move, running the ball with tremendous confidence from his own 25 and seeing Denis Betts stop just short as his team-mates supported his attack.
Shaun Edwards then tried a short kick towards the posts, which Watson could have kicked dead or dropped on to. Instead, he hacked the ball back into play and Martin Offiah immediately ran it back at a ragged defence.
Robinson, who lives just a five- minute stroll from yesterday's venue, celebrated his homecoming by arriving in support and scoring wide on the right, but not too wide for the accurate boot of Frano Botica.
Bradford managed to get a toe- hold on the game before half-time when Martin Dermott conceded a double penalty, first for holding down Roy Powell and then for disputing the decision. David Hobbs had no trouble with the penalty, but immediately after the re-start Bradford were in trouble again.
Watson, dangerous in attack but possibly even more dangerous in defence, almost repeated his blunder, stumbling over a kick from Botica and recovering only just in time to touch down before Offiah's arrival.
Bradford remained under pressure, which told when Dermott ran the ball from dummy-half, went into a forest of tacklers on the try-line and got a pass to Edwards, who found a way through for a try, Botica adding the goal.
Edwards was on his way to the 22nd winning medal of a career that is still in its prime, and his appetite for them shows no sign of abating. Back in the scrum-half position that he now feels suits him best, he played a major part in keeping Wigan in command and was a worthy man of the match.
A drop goal from Steve Hampson and a penalty from Botica after Paul Medley was punished for a retaliatory punch at Betts made the game safe, although Bradford got some reward for their efforts three minutes from time.
Karl Fairbank, Neil Summers and Tony Anderson combined to send Steve McGowan over: it was enough to underline a brave effort but not enough to turn an honourable defeat into anything more substantial.
Bradford Northern: D Watson; T Marchant, S McGowan, T Anderson (K Mumby, 45 min), R Simpson; N Summers, D Fox (T Anderson 68, min); D Hobbs, (B Noble, 68 min), B Noble (T Clark, 45 min), R Powell, P Medley, K Fairbank, D Heron. Coach: P Fox.
Wigan: S Hampson; J Robinson, D Bell, A Farrar, M Offiah (J Lydon, 49 min); F Botica, S Edwards; N Cowie, M Dermott, A Platt, D Betts, B McGinty, P Clarke. Sub not used: S Panapa. Coach: J Monie.
Referee: J Holdsworth (Kippax).
Scorers: Robinson/Botica (try/goal, 37 min, 0-6); Hobbs (penalty, 40 min, 2-6); Edwards/Botica (try/goal, 43 min, 2-12); Hampson (drop goal, 58 min, 2-13); Botica (penalty, 68 min, 2-15); McGowan/Mumby (try/goal, 77 min, 8-15).
Wigan were told yesterday that they are definitely out of the Coca-Cola World Sevens. Their 10-man squad was unacceptable to the tournament organisers.
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