Rugby League: Wigan exploit the gap in class

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The Independent Online
Salford Reds 6 Wigan Warriors 46

SALFORD ARE all on their own at the foot of the Super League table after squandering a bright start and being overrun last night by visitors putting their own recent slump in form behind them. A destructive burst of five Wigan tries in 11 minutes midway through the second half - with Jason Robinson completing a hat-trick - showed the vast difference between the sides. They will not face opponents as sharp and eager as this every week, but it is not easy to see where Salford's first win is coming from.

They were at least able to welcome back Darren Brown, who looked potentially so influential before his injury, while Wigan, beaten in their previous two games, were still without Paul Johnson and started with Robinson at full-back.

Brown's first contribution was startling. After Andy Farrell had kicked straight into touch, the Australian second rower led the Salford attack, putting Hudson Smith through a gap to set up the position for Carl Briggs' try.

Wigan could have been in further trouble had Paul Highton been credited with a try that he appeared to have scored, Salford playing with vastly greater enthusiasm than in some of their recent outings. Then, however, Robinson took advantage of his free role, taking the ball as first receiver to surge past a series of defenders for a wonderful individual try, Farrell's conversion tying the scores.

Tony Smith's injury has meant that Wigan's supporters have not yet seen their side's new midfield triangle in full cry. They saw it after 15 minutes, though, when Greg Florimo's reverse pass released Farrell and Smith romped through in support to score.

There was another effective combination to produce Wigan's next try, Smith running from the scrum base after Neil Cowie had been held over a line and Florimo taking his half-back partner's pass to go over. Farrell's third goal ensured that Wigan, after their unstable start, were well in control by half-time.

Salford could have responded immediately after the break had Brown been able to hold Paul Carige's pass. It was a chance they needed to take if they were to get back into the match.

With Florimo off the field, Wigan lacked some of their earlier fluency, but 14 minutes into the half Smith threw an inviting ball to Wes Davies on the right wing and Billy Boston's grandson did well to use the limited space available to touch down.

Direct from the kick-off, Wigan scored again, their initial thrust seeming to have missed its mark when the ball went to ground but the alert Robinson, revelling in his role, scooped it up to score.

Three minutes later, Robinson was over again, racing away from half-way, and Wigan showed every sign of running away with the game when Smith exploited a gap after he had taken Mark Reber's pass.

Liam Bretherton joined in the fun for Wigan as the final scoreline left Andy Gregory to ponder what on earth could be done to revive his struggling side.

Salford Reds: Thompson; Hayes, Martin, Hewitt, Carige; Blakeley, Briggs; Baynes, Lee, Southern, H Smith, Brown, Highton. Substitutes used: J Faimalo, Morley, Ayres, Bradbury.

Wigan Warriors: Robinson; Davies, Moore, Connolly, Jones; Florimo, T Smith; Cowie, Reber, Goldspink, Cassidy, Betts, Farrell. Substitutes used: Mestrov, O'Connor, Gilmour, Bretherton.

Referee: S Presley (Castleford).