Rugby League: Wigan's turbulent week ends happily: Champions manage to put troubles behind them in Premiership first round while Bradford trounce Wembley losers

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The Independent Online
Wigan. . . . . . . . . . . . .34

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ST HELENS ran out of fuel in the face of a Denis Betts-inspired rescue operation yesterday that took Wigan through a first-round Premiership tie at the end of a difficult week.

Sacking John Dorahy as coach looked like being the prelude to further problems when Wigan trailed 12-0 at one stage.

But the tiring Saints had no answer to Betts' wide running in the second half as Wigan marked the start of Graeme West's caretaker regime with what, in the end, was a comfortable victory.

It was anything but comfortable for the first hour, however, especially when Saints took advantage of a post-Wembley lethargy on Wigan's part to lead through tries by Ian Pickavance and Alan Hunte.

Wigan made important inroads before half-time when Shaun Edwards and Gary Connolly sent in Martin Offiah for the first of his two tries and drew level six minutes into the second half when Mick Cassidy steamed in to take Andy Farrell's cross-kick and score.

Saints, as they had shown when the best handling move of the match was only thwarted by a foot in touch, were still playing the more fluent rugby and regained the lead when Shane Cooper's superb pass released Tommy Martyn for a third try.

That was enough to goad Wigan and Betts in particular into their big-match mode. Within 11 minutes, he linked with Connolly for the Edwards try that levelled the scores again and took Edwards' crisp pass to dummy through himself and put Wigan ahead.

Wigan never looked back from that point. After Cassidy's glorious tackle had halted a Saints attack that threatened an equaliser, Betts struck again, this time sending Edwards over for a try that put them beyond recall.

In injury-time, Wigan made it an even happier ending to a turbulent week when Connolly, outstanding against his old team, burst out of his own 25 and Offiah supported Edwards for a try which, with Frano Botica's fifth goal, put their early struggles far behind them.

West, keen to stake his claim to keep the most demanding job in the game on a permanent basis, acknowledged his debt to Betts' contribution.

'I also tried to tell them at half- time that they needed to cut out the handling errors and they came out for the second half very well indeed,' he said.

Wigan: Atcheson (Lydon, 53); Panapa, Connolly, Mather (Atcheson, 75), Offiah; Botica, Edwards; Skerrett (Cassidy, 22), Hall, Cowie, Betts, Farrell, Clarke.

St Helens: Hunte; Riley (Morley, 15), Ropati, Veivers, Sullivan; Martyn, Griffiths; Dannatt, Dwyer, Mann, Joynt, Pickavance (Harrison, 27) (Pickavance, 40) (Harrison, 65), Cooper.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).