Rugby League: Tuigamala's first flourish: Inga the winger's scoring debut for Wigan

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The Independent Online
Widnes. . .12

Wigan. . . .27

VA'AIGA TUIGAMALA celebrated his arrival in his new code last night with a debut try four minutes from the end of a game that will have shown him what a hard course he has chosen.

Although he sometimes struggled to keep up with the relentless pace of the match, it all ended happily for the former All Black as he put the finishing touch to a much-improved Wigan performance.

All eyes were on Tuigamala, drafted in for an unscheduled debut because of Joe Lydon's knee injury. He obliged with a glimpse of his power with his first touch of the ball when it took three men to stop him.

However, Widnes looked the likeliest side to score, an impression that was confirmed when they took a 13th-minute lead. Wigan were prone to early mistakes and from one of them - Jason Robinson's knock-on from Bobby Goulding's penalty - Widnes attacked down the right after the scrum. The determined running of Paul Hulme, and an exchange of passes with David Ruane, sent Ruane in for a try which Goulding improved splendidly.

Goulding added a penalty after Neil Cowie's high tackle on Hulme for which Cowie received a lecture, but Wigan got the break they needed when Frano Botica's short pass sent Andy Platt striding out of Andy Ireland's tackle for a try which Botica converted.

Widnes' failure to cover another swift pass undid them again five minutes later, Sam Panapa sending in Paul Atcheson. A lovely run by Nigel Wright set up Wigan's third try from Panapa as they seemed to have doused Widnes' early fire.

There was still plenty of spirit in a series of Widnes attacks after the break and they gave Tuigamala the opportunity to make his first serious tackles in his new code, a chore he carried out soundly enough.

The process of stabilising Wigan's fortunes after a rocky couple of weeks continued when Andy Farrell, as he had threatened to do a couple of minutes earlier, sent Gary Connolly in for a try which spoke volumes for the class of both players.

Widnes continued to show defiance, Karle Hammond going over in the corner to prevent Wigan resting on what they had achieved so far.

As time ran out, Tuigamala, looking distinctly weary, scored his try, courtesy of a superb inside pass from Farrell. It took him a couple of seconds to realise that his opportunity had arrived but he then went right over the tackle that stood

between him and the try-line, even if there was some doubt about his getting the ball down cleanly.

The Wigan coach, John Dorahy, said that he had held back news of Tuigamala's debut to keep the pressure off the player. 'I only knew I was in the starting side in the changing-room before the match,' Tuigamala said. 'After waiting for a month I was itching to play. It was very hard and fast, but I really

enjoyed it.'

Widnes: Spruce; Myers, Hammond, Elia (Tyrer, 51), P Smith (Elia, 73); Ruane, Goulding; Ireland, McCurrie, D Smith (Davidson, 20), Faimalo, Russell, P Hulme.

Wigan: Atcheson; Robinson, Wright, Connolly, Tuigamala; Panapa, Botica; Skerrett (McGinty, 40; Platt, 73), Dermott, Platt (Gildart, 59), Cowie (McGinty, 75), Cassidy, Farrell.

Referee: J Holdsworth (Kippax).