Rugby League: Wigan move within range

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The Independent Online
Leeds . . .6

Wigan. . .31

WIGAN are close enough to the First Division Championship to reach out and touch it after surmounting one of the trickier obstacles in their path in decisive and dismissive style last night.

They ran riot in the second half to end the nine-match winning streak of Leeds and show them that they still have some way to go before they match the very best.

A delayed start of 12 minutes to enable a 20,000 crowd to get into the ground found both sides ragged and fallible. Wigan came closer to paying for errors when Neil Cowie dropped the ball in his own 25.

The winning combination against Castleford on Saturday almost did it again for Leeds, Ellery Hanley's basketball pass finding Paul Dixon and Jim Fallon only being denied by a fumble over the line.

Wigan celebrated their escape by taking the lead, thanks to a gift from Garry Schofield, the Great Britain captain. He put his pass straight into the arms of Martin Dermott, who scored from 50 yards out in spite of Hanley's chase.

With Cowie and the opposing prop Steve Molloy in the sin-bin for 10 minutes following a fight, Leeds came up with the equaliser, Alan Tait exchanging passes with Andy Gregory to score at the posts and leave Simon Irving a goal as comfortable as Frano Botica's for Wigan.

The returned Molloy went on a storming run that should have put Leeds ahead, but Tait was stopped and Hanley's pass went through Gary Mercer's hands into touch.

By contrast, Wigan claimed a try before half-time from a far less clear-cut opportunity, Andrew Farrar finding a way through and reaching out after he had been grounded by Tait for a hotly contested try. Botica's goal made him the quickest man to 1,000 points in the game's history.

Wigan's third try soon after the break was simplicity itself, Farrar and Joe Lydon feeding Martin Offiah, who sped in at the corner in spite of the ankle injury which had made him a doubtful starter.

Venomous tackling stopped Leeds ever finding a rhythm. Dermott's drop goal edged Wigan further ahead and Botica embarked on his second thousand with a 40-yard penalty after Gregory had used his knees in a tackle.

A lovely pass from Jason Robinson to Sam Panapa paved the way for Shaun Edwards's try. The Leeds-born Robinson then scored a brilliant solo try when cutting in from the wing.

Two more goals from Botica completed the damage and, as a final indignity, Hanley spent the last minutes of the game in the sin-bin after a punch on Offiah.

Leeds: Tait; Fallon (Dixon, 50), Iro, Innes, Irving; Schofield, Gregory (O'Neill, 67); Molloy, Lowes, O'Neill (Anderson, 47), Dixon (Goodway, 47), Mercer, Hanley.

Wigan: Hampson; Robinson, Lydon (Panapa, 57), Farrar, Offiah; Botica, Edwards; Skerrett, Dermott (Clarke, 75), Cowie (Mather, 67), Betts, Clarke (Lydon, 67), Bell.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).