Rugby League: Wigan's regal display

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The Independent Online
Wigan. . .19

Hull. . . .4

IT WAS back to business as usual for Wigan, who marshalled their reserves of resolution to open the New Year by winning through to the final of Rugby League's Regal Trophy.

A side depleted by injury and suspension put the trauma of last week's 41-6 debacle at St Helens firmly into the past with a solid display at Central Park. Hull, themselves missing a number of key players, never really recovered from a dreadful start that saw them make too many mistakes and concede far too many penalties.

From one of those penalties, their captain and scrum-half, Ivan Henjak, was dispatched to the sin bin for 10 minutes for holding down Paul Atcheson after the Wigan winger had made an incisive run. From another infringement, Frano Botica put Wigan ahead - a lead they were never to lose.

It was Botica's pass that sent one of Wigan's brightest prospects, Barrie-John Mather, striding through for the first try. Mather and Atcheson, on his debut following his signing from Widnes this summer, contributed a series of impressive runs and it was noticeable that Atcheson received considerably more ball than the illustrious regular left-winger, the injured Martin Offiah.

Hull hit back when Rob Nolan picked up a loose ball in the Wigan 22 and, after a series of probes, Matt Donkin scored in the corner.

Wigan resumed control with Neil Cowie's first try from Shaun Edwards's pass after Richard Gay had dropped a high kick.

Immediately before half-time, Botica added a drop goal and although Hull played their best rugby after the break, they could not make any impression on that nine-point lead.

Gay and Lee Jackson made fine breaks, but support was never quite where it was needed and, right on full-time, Cowie again powered over for Wigan, who, regardless of their line-up on 23 January, will be formidable opponents for the winner of next week's semi-final between Bradford and Castleford.

Wigan: S Hampson; J Robinson, S Panapa, A Farrar, P Atcheson; S Edwards (capt), F Botica; N Cowie, M Crompton (M Cassidy, 4 min) (Andy Farrell, 51 min), I Gildart, B-J Mather, B McGinty (Cassidy, 76 min), P Clarke. Coach: J Monie.

Hull: R Gay; P Eastwood, J Grant, R Nolan, M Donkin; S Gale, I Henjak; S Durham (R Wilson, 28 min) (Walker, 76 min), L Jackson, R Walker (Durham, 67 min), A Jackson (N Rushton, 53 min), J Sharp, D Busby. Coach: R Simmons.

Referee: R Whitfield (Widnes).

Scorers: Botica (pen, 8 min, 2-0), Mather (try, 12 min, 6-0), Donkin (try, 21 min, 6-4), Cowie/Botica (try/goal, 26 min, 12-4), Botica (drop, 40 min, 13-4), Cowie/Botica (try/goal, 80 min, 19-4).

(Photograph omitted)