Wigan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20
WIGAN overcame the accepted odds, the absence of key players and the formidable opposition of Brisbane in their own back yard to win the right to call themselves the game's top club side.
Defending magnificently to protect a lead created by their eager opportunism, Wigan were worthy victors in the first World Club Challenge to be held in Australia.
Their win is all the more admirable for being achieved without both their first-choice props, Kelvin Skerrett and Andy Platt, and after the 23rd minute without the third member of the front row, the injured Martin Dermott.
Players like the one remaining specialist prop, Neil Cowie, Andy Farrell and the relentless Phil Clarke, rose to the occasion to send the bulk of a 54,220 crowd at the ANZ stadium home disappointed, on a memorable night for British Rugby League.
Brisbane also lost important players in Kevin Walters and Steve Renouf, but even before those blows they were showing a surprising hesitancy that invited Wigan to take advantage.
Dennis Betts did precisely that when he pounced on a Shaun Edwards kick for a try after six minutes.
On the quarter hour, Barrie-Jon Mather produced a classical piece of centre play, slipping past the speedy Renouf and using Jason Robinson and Martin Offiah as decoys as he scored himself.
Frano Botica's two conversions gave Wigan a handsome 12-point lead but Wendell Sailor, culpable in both Wigan tries, made some amends by skipping out of Offiah's tackle and surging down the blindside to score. There was plenty of defensive work ahead of Wigan as the Broncos, without ever being at their best, threatened with their ability to keep the ball alive and attack from all manner of situations.
The aspect of their play that let them down was a tendency to drop straightforward passes, and one that went to ground gave the constantly dangerous Robinson the chance to pick up and beat Willie Carne and Sailor to score the try that put Wigan firmly in command.
Typical speculative handling from Brisbane saw Michael Hancock score to bring them back into contention, and when the former Widnes player, Julian O'Neill, crossed in the corner and then converted it seemed that the Broncos were on one of their famous victory gallops. However, Botica kicked a penalty to add to his three conversions and steady Wigan's nerves.
It was a particularly poignant victory for Sam Panapa and Billy McGinty, both playing their final matches for Wigan before moving on to Salford and Workington respectively, and a highly significant one for Graeme West, the caretaker coach whose credentials for the permanent job are now surely beyond dispute.
Brisbane: Carne; Hancock, Renouf (Ryan, 22), Johns, Sailor; Kevin Walters (Plath, 5; McKenna, 73), Langer; Lazarus, Kerrod Walters, Gee (Galea, 64), Hohn, Cann, O'Neill.
Wigan: Connolly; Robinson, Panapa, Mather (Atcheson, 50), Offiah; Botica, Edwards; Cowie, Dermott (Hall, 23), McGinty (Cassidy, 26), Betts, Farrell, Clarke. Substitute not used: Tuigamala.
Referee: G McCallum (Sydney).
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