Tuigamala's towering show : Rugby league

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The Independent Online
Warrington 10

Wigan 40

Forty minutes of awesome power and flair ensured that the Regal Trophy, the one trophy they failed to win last season, was going to Wigan this year.

Led by a towering performance from Phil Clarke and spearheaded by Va'aiga Tuigamala's two tries, Wigan not only established a new record score for the final, they played some of their most devastating rugby since they began to dominate the code.

Wigan looked ominously commanding from the start. A break by Gary Connolly could have sent Martin Offiah in if the winger had not dropped the ball, but Wigan were soon on their way to building an impregnable lead. Frano Botica's high kick was fumbled by Jonathan Davies and, when Wigan recovered possession, Mark Forster was penalised for a high tackle on Denis Betts and Botica opened his account. A wonderful break by Clarke opened up Warrington's defence for the first Wigan try. His long pass was switched back inside by the alert Jason Robinson and the thundering bulk of Tuigamala was always going to take him over the tryline, despite Rob Myler's clinging vainly to his ankles.

Botica put the conversion in off the post and was then given another straightforward kick by Paul Cullen's high tackle and a second penalty for dissent. Warrington could feel at this stage that all the decisions were going against them, but they were hardly helping themselves.

Even when they managed their first serious attack, it backfired disastrously on them. Davies failed to take a difficult low pass, but Tuigamala scooped it up with his shovel hands and surgeon's skill to rampage upfield. Warrington eventually hauled down the supporting Henry Paul, but their defence never reorganised. When the ball was moved slickly from right to left, Botica was able to exchange passes with Paul and score in the corner, adding another goal from the wide angle.

Warrington could do nothing with Tuigamala. Shaun Edwards picked him out with a long pass and he swatted off a series of tackles before laying the ball off for Connolly to score and Botica to add the extra points.

Warrington managed a brief burst of defiance, helped by a couple of penalties that enabled them to build some pressure. Kelly Shelford went close and Greg Mackey found Forster on a vacant wing. That try was put firmly in its context as a mere token effort by Wigan's response immediately before half-time.

The brilliant Paul chipped over the defence, picked the ball up on his fingertips on the first bounce, juggled it a few times and got it away to the ever- present Clarke, whose ball inside for Tuigamala completed the job. Botica's goal set the seal on one of the finest halves of rugby that Wigan have played.

It was unrealistic to expect them to maintain that momentum and they were quieter but just as firmly in control after the break. Botica's seventh goal created a new kicking record for Regal finals, before Shelford's pass produced a virtual carbon copy ofhis first try for Forster, followed by an excellent conversion from Davies.

Wigan were in cruise mode by then, although a try by Clarke, disallowed for a forward pass, would have been an even more fitting finale than Barrie McDermott's barge over, Botica's eighth goal and Offiah's try in injury time. Clarke had been magnificent,but so were Paul, Botica, Robinson and Tuigamala.

The other star of the show was the futuristic McAlpine Stadium. It was apt that the setting wasmatched by a performance which, for too long for Warrington, was equally perfect.

Warrington: Davies; Forster, Bateman, Harris, Myler; Maloney, Mackey; Tees (Sanderson, 66), Barlow (Bennett, 66), McGuire, Cullen, Darbyshire (Sanderson, 55), Shelford. Sub: Bennett, Sanderson.

Wigan: Paul; Robinson, Tuigamala (Atcheson, 56), Connolly, Offiah; Botica, Edwards; Skerrett (Cowie, 55, Tuigamala, 75), Hall, Cowie (McDermott, h/t), Betts, Cassidy, Clarke. Subs: Atcheson, McDermott.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).