Rugby League: Second coming of Paul

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The Independent Online
Wigan 44

Sheffield 6

HENRY PAUL does not expect to be at Wigan next season, but he showed them what they could be missing with a vintage individual display at they took Sheffield apart yesterday. Paul inspired a ruthless second-half performance after it had taken a controversial decision to give them the edge in the first.

He was outstanding as Wigan produced their best rugby of the season, extracting a second measure of retribution for the defeat by the Eagles at Wembley in May. Paul might feel that he has already been effectively pushed out by the signing of Greg Florimo for next year, but when Paul plays like this, you get two stand-offs for the price of one.

"He was outstanding as a team No 6 and then he did what he can do with his individual brilliance," said the Wigan coach, John Monie, not always such an unequivocal fan in the past.

Paul claimed two tries with the sinuous running that makes him so hard to defend against when he is in the mood and he was also involved in much of Wigan's other best work.

"I didn't think I'd done enough in the first half, but I tried to make up for it in the second," he said. "I'm not really worried about what happens in the future. I just want to focus on the job here from week to week."

Well as they played, Wigan were helped towards their overwhelming victory by a refereeing decision that had the Sheffield coach, John Kear, not usually an outspoken critic of officials, fuming afterwards. Steve Ganson sent the Eagles' second rower Darren Shaw to the sin-bin for a holding down offence mid-way through the half.

"I thought it was a poor decision," Kear said. "He could have sin-binned someone on about 60 occasions and if you do it for one, you have to do it for everyone else."

During the 10 minutes that Shaw was absent, Wigan turned a six-point deficit, the result of Darren Turner's close-range try during Sheffield's lively start, into a six-point lead. First, Paul danced through and then, after Waisale Sovatabua had dropped a high kick, he was involved in sending Kris Radlinski in for a second converted try.

If that gave Wigan a precarious lead, they simply romped away after the break. Tony Smith and Lee Gilmour linked for Andy Farrell, who kicked eight goals, to score the pivotal try before Gary Connolly, Paul Johnson and Smith combined in the best move of the match to release Danny Moore. Stephen Holgate went over from close range, Paul skipped over from Smith's pass and Simon Haughton powered over to round it all off.

"We were competitive in the first half," Kear said, "but we weren't competitive at all in the second. We lost that half 32-0 and we were lucky to get nil."

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

Sheffield: Sovatabua; Stott, Morganson, Senior, Sodje; Watson, Aston, Broadbent, Turner, Laughton, Carr, Shaw, Doyle. Substitutes used: Lawless, Vassilakopoulos, Molloy.

Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).