Pat Richards guided Wigan into the last four of the Carnegie Challenge Cup with a personal tally of 20 points against an ultimately outclassed Salford.
“We got the tussle we expected in the first half but we were pretty clinical in the second,” said the Wigan coach, Brian Noble, no doubt feeling some of the pressure built up by speculation over his future lifted from his shoulders.
As well as his reliable goal-kicking, Richards punished Salford for their imperfections with a trio of tries as the Warriors became the first side into the semi-finals. It was not always the most fluent display, but they were adept at taking the chances presented to them by cheap turn-overs of possession.
Salford ruined their first attacking set with a forward pass, for which they paid a heavy price, Thomas Leuluai’s excellent pass setting up Gareth Hock for the first try.
The City Reds’ response showed what they have become over the past few weeks – a settled, confident side with a handy three-match winning run to their credit. Their equalising try was nothing short of copybook, begun by Ray Cashmere’s offload to Richie Myler and finished by Luke Adamson.
Salford still have the odd damaging mistake in their repertoire, however. John Wilshere conceded a penalty and Wigan made full use of the gift of field positionwhen Richardswent over. The visitors created some danger at the start of the second half but again gave away wholly unnecessary penalties. Ian Sibbit did so for holding down Leuluai in the tackle, allowing Richards to tag on two more points.
Straight away, another penalty for offside saw Wigan move the ball left again for Richards to score from George Carmont’s pass.
Richards was confirmed as the star of the night when he completed his hattrick, capitalising on more good work from the admirable Leuluai, 10 minutes from time. The other outstanding performer was Hock, who scored his second in the time remaining.
The Salford coach, Shaun McRae, is one who believes that Wigan could go all the way to Wembley and win. “They have the culture and the experience and the side capable of performing on the big stage,” he said. “Of course they can win it.”
Wigan: Phelps; Roberts, Gleeson, Carmont, Richards; S Tomkins, T Leuluai; Coley, Riddell, Prescott, Hock, Bailey, O’Loughlin. Substitutes used: J Tomkins, McIlorum, Paleaaesina, Hansen.
Salford:Wilshere; Henry, Talau, Turner, Littler; Ratchford, Myler; Cashmere, Alker, Stapleton, Adamson, Parker, Swain.
Substitutes used: Paul, P Leuluai, Sibbit, Jewitt.
Referee: T Alibert (France).