Rugby League: Wigan rely on Farrell's versatility

Wigan Warriors 24 Warrington Wolves 10
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The Independent Online
WIGAN ARE not in the habit of doing St Helens many favours, but the way they dispatched the only other unbeaten side in Super League has left Saints alone at the top of the table.

Despite fielding a team which looked patched up and improvised in several departments - something they might have to do more of after picking up another couple of injuries yesterday - Wigan were in control virtually throughout, with players at opposite ends of the spectrum of experience doing all that was required of them.

Andy Farrell, playing at stand-off for the first time in a year, pinned Warrington back with his shrewd kicking as well as going 40 yards for a try that a specialist in the position would have been proud of.

Wes Davies, the grandson of Billy Boston, making his first full appearance at full-back, also performed capably, his fast footwork and beautifully balanced running showing up well throughout.

With Mark Reber looking much happier in his favoured position of hooker, the absence of other key players was shrugged off without a care. The way that Warrington missed their absentees, Jon Roper and Scott Wilson, more that Wigan did theirs could be an indication that they do not yet have the squad for a convincing tilt at the top five.

They hardly helped themselves yesterday by conceding a sloppy early try, allowing Reber to dart over from dummy-half for his first for the club after Simon Haughton had been stopped near the line.

Farrell landed the conversion, but his tactical picking in general play was a bigger factor, his unerring placement between the full-back and winger forcing Warrington to turn and retrieve all afternoon.

The visitors were caught out again after 25 minutes, Neil Cowie this time sucking in the tacklers and playing the ball quickly for Gary Connolly to force his way over.

The real killer for Warrington was the try Farrell scored five minutes before the break. Taking the pass from Mick Cassidy, he showed the pace of a genuine stand-off to beat the defence on the outside and his third conversion completed a thoroughly composed and methodical 40-minutes work.

To their credit, Warrington came back strongly after the break, Lee Briers kicking to the corner for Alan Hunte to grab one try. When Briers ran the ball on the last tackle and John Duffy's pass let Jason Roach score on the opposite wing, Briers's conversion brought them to within eight points.

Farrell's penalty restored some stability, but, if Danny Farrar had not wasted a good position by over-hitting a short kick, there was still a faint possibility that Warrington could get something out of the game.

But Wigan always looked to have something in reserve and, 15 minutes from time, they kept the ball alive as they probed for an opening until Lee Gilmour finally sent Danny Moore over for that points that clinched the victory.

In the time that remained, Wigan lost Paul Johnson with an ankle injury and Haughton with a damaged shoulder, both of which are likely to keep them out for extended periods.

"I've never known as many injuries at this stage of a season," said the Wigan coach, John Monie, who was forced to play the last 10 minutes with 12 men.

At least he has the consolation that in Farrell he has a player with the priceless adaptability to compensate and, Davies and the other young hopefuls who will now get their chance, some exciting back-up for the men who will be missing.

Wigan: Davies; Johnson, Connolly, Gilmour, Moore; Farrell, Robinson; Cowie, Rever, Mestrov, Cassidy, Haughton, Betts. Substitutes used: Goldspink, Smith, Ball, O'Connor.

Warrington: Penny; Roach, Kohe-Love, Hunte, Forster; Duffy, Briers; Hilton, Farrar, Nutley, Gillies, Knott, Wainwright. Substitutes used: Chambers, McCurrie, Busby, Hanger.

Referee: S Presley (Castleford).

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