Rugby League: Wigan's resolve remains strong

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The Independent Online
Bradford Northern. . .8

Wigan . . . . . . . .15

IT IS 10 years since Wigan rediscovered the habit of winning competitions, by claiming the Regal Trophy under one of its previous names. Saturday's victory in the final at Elland Road was a reminder that many of the triumphs of the last decade have owed as much to determination and resilience as to team and individual brilliance.

By the admission of their coach, John Monie, last week's preparation - under the cloud of the World Sevens controversy - was not satisfactory. 'Even when we got to the ground, all the talk was about the Sydney Sevens, which is the last thing you want before a cup final,' he said.

Within a minute of the game starting, Phil Clarke suffered a leg injury that forced him to leave the field eight minutes later.

Then there was the small matter of a Bradford team humiliated twice by Wigan last season but this time showing commitment and ambition. Several times, various combinations of Karl Fairbank, David Heron and Deryck Fox threatened to embarrass Wigan. So did the intuitive thrusts of David Watson, whose talent is all the more fascinating for being so uneven.

Wigan weathered those dangers, helped on occasion by over-anxious passing which undermined Northern's efforts.

The running of Jason Robinson allowed him to start and finish the move which gave Wigan the opening try. The second, from Edwards after Martin Dermott had sucked in the defence just enough to create a gap, made it hard to imagine Bradford climbing back.

To their credit, they continued to play constructive rugby, although their reward, through Steve McGowan, came rather too late to fuel a revival. Discounting the Yorkshire Cup, it is now almost 12 years since they won a major trophy, during which time Wigan have carried off 19 major domestic prizes.

The bad news for Bradford, and everyone else, is that Wigan want their glittering decade to go on. If the team is not the strongest they have fielded, the will to win is as powerful as ever.

Bradford Northern: Watson; Marchant, McGowan, Anderson (Mumby, 45), Simpson; Summers, Fox (Anderson, 68); Hobbs (Noble, 68), Noble (Clark, 45), Powell, Medley, Fairbank, Heron.

Wigan: Hampson; Robinson, Bell, Farrar, Offiah (Lydon, 49); Botica, Edwards; Cowie, Dermott, Platt, Betts, McGinty, Clarke.

Referee: J Holdsworth (Kippax).