Schuster's boot exposes Wigan's weaknesses

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The Independent Online
Halifax 18

Wigan 16

It might be only delaying the inevitable, but the way Halifax inflicted only the second championship defeat of the season on Wigan exposed them as a long way from being unbeatable, writes Dave Hadfield.

Led by magnificent performances in the pack from Paul Rowley, Paul Moriarty and Michael Jackson, Halifax dominated the match until a face-saving pair of Wigan tries in the last five minutes.

Indeed, they gave Wigan such a battering that they could well have won with more to spare. That Wigan's defence should have cracked under the pressure to which it was subjected was less surprising than their lack of attacking ideas.

Wigan made an uncomfortable start, and when Halifax pressed the Wigan line, Shaun Edwards was sent to the sin-bin for obstructing Wayne Parker, John Schuster landing the penalty.

Wigan were soon in the lead, an exquisite reverse pass from Andrew Farrell sending in Gary Connolly. Halifax drew level when Connolly was penalised for ripping the ball away from Jackson, and Schuster again succeeded where Frano Botica had twice failed when Neil Cowie went high on Martin Ketteridge.

Schuster's kicking paid off in another way when his finely judged chip seven minutes from half-time sat up for John Bentley to race in and underline the fact that Wigan had a task on their hands, especially after Schuster converted from wide out.

Halifax piled on relentless pressure after the break, camping out in Wigan's danger zone until they finally cracked, their former winger, Mark Preston, romping in from Simon Baldwin's pass.

Edwards scored two late tries, both improved by Botica, but it was too late to make a difference, and Wigan are going to wait longer than they hoped for the seven points they need to retian their title.

Halifax: Dean (Ketteridge, 21); Bentley, Schuster, Baldwin, Preston; Hagan, Parker (Dean, 47); Fieldhouse, Rowley, Divorty, Moriarty (Gillespie, 58), Jackson, Perrett (Moriarty, 67).

Wigan: Paul; Robinson, Tuigamala, Connolly, Radlinski; Botica, Edwards; O'Connor, Hall, Cowie (Mather, 34; Atcheson, 57), Betts (Farrell, 73), Farrell (Cowie, 57), Clarke.

Referee: C Morris (Huddersfield).