Rugby League / Regal Trophy: Wigan do well to ride out storm

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The Independent Online
Oldham. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

Wigan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16

THE conditions and the competition were in place for a reprise of a famous cup upset, but three tries in the first half gave Wigan the lead they needed to withstand a ferocious fightback yesterday.

Wigan's scalp in the Regal Trophy was never a realistic prospect once the holders built a 16-2 advantage. But Oldham, with folk memories of their Challenge Cup victory here almost seven years ago, did not seem to realise that it was a hopeless task.

If their only try, from Barrie McDermott, had come rather earlier than the 72nd minute, Oldham could have repeated that feat.

Wigan, already depleted in several key positions, lost their Test prop, Kelvin Skerrett, when he was snowed in at his Yorkshire home. With sleet being driven down the Watersheddings pitch, it was always going to be an impossible afternoon on which to play fluent rugby and much of the play was every bit as messy as expected.

Wigan, however, showed the priceless knack of getting their handling right when they made a telling break and got a sight of the line.

They took the lead after only three minutes, Oldham asking for trouble when Steve Kerry knocked on in his own 25 and then opening up to allow Sam Panapa to score with ease from the resulting scrum.

Frano Botica's goal was cancelled out by a Paul Topping penalty, but Wigan went further ahead after 17 minutes. Joe Lydon made the initial inroads and Barrie-Jon Mather sent in Jason Robinson for a try in his first match after a seven-week lay-off with a dislocated elbow.

Oldham were willing to work tirelessly and aggressively, but they were stilted at half-back and it was no surprise when Wigan took what seemed a decisive lead on the half hour.

Andrew Farrell, who handled the atrocious conditions as well as anyone, did the damage with a 30-yard dash and a perfectly timed pass to allow Gary Connolly in for a try which Botica improved.

Oldham played most of the second half in Wigan territory, but they lost an early chance to get back on terms when Kerry fumbled after Martin Crompton had retrieved his own 'bomb'.

The breakthrough came too late, but typified Oldham's determination. Phil Clarke was driven back over his line by fierce tackling, Bob Lindner was tackled high from the subsequent drop-out and he took a quick tap penalty to allow McDermott to power over.

Topping landed the goal but Wigan weathered the final minutes to become one of the few clubs sure of their place in the last eight of the competition.

Oldham: Topping; Jones, McAllister, Abram, Ranson; Crompton, Kerry; Sherratt (McDermott, 51), J Clarke (Tupaea, 62), McDermott (Green, 25), Kuiti, Goodway (Sherratt, 58), Lindner.

Wigan: Lydon; Robinson, Mather, Connolly, Ellison (Stevens, 51); Panapa, Botica; Cowie, Hall (Dermott, 62), Platt, Cassidy, Farrell, P Clarke.

Referee: J Holdsworth (Kippax).

Wigan have confirmed they have made an offer to the All Black rugby union winger Va'aiga Tuigamala, and they hope to sign him before the Silk Cut Challenge Cup deadline of 10 January.