Rugby League: Skerrett skirmish after try brings frenzied finale

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The Independent Online
Wigan.................24

St Helen's..........22

Kelvin Skerrett faces the prospect of missing Wigan's Regal Trophy semi-final against Castleford after packing a match-winning try and a sending-off into the last few minutes of a dramatic quarter-final yesterday.

Skerrett's 75th-minute try, after Saints' frantic efforts to snatch the game had broken down with a dropped pass, gave Wigan an eight-point margin that looked certain to see them safely through.

But, in the last minute of normal time, the simmering feud between him and Sonny Nickle, which had already seen the two sin-binned, erupted again and Skerrett was dismissed after appearing to strike the Saints forward while he was on the ground.

Saints then scored a try deep into injury time, Alan Hunte going through some weak defence to give David Lyon a gift. Bobby Goulding's conversion cut the gap to two points, but there was no time for Saints to complete their fight-back.

Saints, who took an early lead through Steve Prescott, conceded too many penalties and had two players sin-binned during the first half. After a converted try made by Gary Connolly's catch and pass to Henry Paul put Wigan level, Frano Botica's penalties put them ahead. Then, with Apollo Perelini in the sin-bin, the excellent Paul scythed through for his second try.

Adam Fogerty, fresh from an acting debut on Coronation Street that required him to flatten Jack Duckworth, then did the same to Botica. The difference is that Jack Duckworth does not get off the floor and score two points from the penalty, and Botica sent Wigan in at the break well in control.

Saints were revitalised in the second half, with Goulding outplaying a Shaun Edwards well short of full mobility. His kick for the corner produced a try for Hunte and he also landed the conversion via the crossbar.

Skerrett and Nickle went for their enforced breather in preparation for their main bout and an exchange of penalties kept it neck and neck until Skerrett's first memorable moment of the closing stages.

Goulding's pass to Ian Pickavance went to ground and although Saints foiled Andy Farrell's long-range dribble, they were still sufficiently stretched on the last tackle for Martin Hall and Paul Atcheson to send the Great Britain prop crashing over.

The irony now is that any suspension on Thursday will keep Skerrett out of a repeat of last year's final that his fourth try of the season set up.

Wigan: Atcheson; Robinson, Paul, Connolly (Clarke, 33), Offiah; Botica, Edwards (Connolly 65; Cowie, 73); Skerrett, Hall, Cowie (O'Connor, 55), Betts, Cassidy, Farrell.

St Helens: Prescott; Hunte, Lyon, Loughlin (Griffiths, 13), Sullivan; Martyn, Goulding; Fogerty, Dwyer (Pickavance, 51), Perelini, Joynt, Nickle, Cooper.

Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).

REGAL TROPHY Semi-final draw: Widnes v Warrington (Sat 14 Jan, 3.0); Wigan v Castleford (Sun 15 Jan, 12.50).

More rugby league, page 28

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