Rugby League: Robinson's hot running

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The Independent Online
Wigan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .34

Bradford Northern. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16

A CURIOUSLY uneven performance from Wigan was enough to beat an injury-hit Bradford Northern and keep them in pursuit of St Helens at the top of the First Division. Such a mixture of hot and cold might not be sufficient, however, to beat those same rivals in the eagerly awaited Challenge Cup tie on Saturday.

When Wigan ran hot, they were very hot indeed and no one more so than their dazzling teenager, Jason Robinson, who is expected to win his first Great Britain Under-21 cap when the team is announced today.

Poached from under the noses of the Yorkshire clubs, the 18- year-old scored the try that broke Bradford's resistance in the Regal Trophy final last month. Yesterday he was in devastating form as he haunted them again, scoring two tries and creating two others with his exhilarating and creative running.

Wigan had been untidy in the early stages until a marvellous break from deep in his own half by Robinson, finished off by Joe Lydon, set them on their way to a scoring burst that brought them 24 points in 13 minutes and recalled memories of the thrashings Bradford endured at Wigan's hands last season.

Robinson demonstrated his finishing prowess when he scored the second try himself, the ball scrambled on to him by Phil Clarke and Martin Offiah after Shaun Edwards had thrown out a speculative long pass.

Another Edwards pass, this time one of unarguable precision to Steve Hampson, opened the way for Robinson to claim his second, and a superb break by Clarke, supported by Martin Hall, gave Edwards one on his own account.

With Frano Botica succeeding with all four goal-kicks, two of them very difficult for any other kicker, Wigan seemed on their way to a massive score. Instead, they went off the boil to allow Bradford back into the game with some committed play.

First the hard working scrum- half David Watson wriggled through for a try and then Roger Simpson's pass sent in Steve McGowan, with David Hobbs adding both goals. From disappearing out of sight, Wigan suddenly had reason to be grateful for Botica's accuracy as Northern refused to capitulate.

However, Wigan weathered the storm and clicked into gear again after the break, Robinson's devastating little burst of acceleration sending Sam Panapa on a strong run down the wing for one try and DenisBetts, back on as a blood- bin replacement for Clarke, going over for a soft one from acting half-back.

That ushered in Wigan's worst spell of the match, during which Panapa was the worst offender among some truly dreadful handling.

It was enough to give Bradford another try - a brilliant solo effort from the scrum by Simpson - but not enough to alter the result. Similar slackness against Saints on Saturday would have very different consequences.

Wigan: Hampson; Robinson, Bell, Lydon, Offiah; Botica (Betts, 62), Edwards; Skerrett, Hall, Platt, Betts (Panapa, 26), Gildart (Cowie, 26), Clarke (Gildart, 68).

Bradford Northern: Mumby (Simpson, 29); D Powell, McGowan, Anderson (Mumby, 67), Darkes; Summers, Watson; Hobbs (Boothroyd, 67), Noble, R Powell, Boothroyd (Greenwood, 27), Fairbank, Heron.

Referee: J Smith (Halifax).