Vagana eggs on Warrington: Rugby League

Warrington 35 Wigan 24
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The Independent Online
Do not, I urge you, use the greeting Happy Easter in Wigan for the foreseeable future. Following on the heels of their Good Friday defeat by St Helens, losing to a Warrington team without either a coach or a Super League point at kick-off has made it an unforgettable holiday for all the wrong reasons.

Warrington, whose coach, John Dorahy, resigned on Saturday after a disastrous start to the season, seized gleefully on Wigan's shortcomings at Wilderspool to build up a match-winning lead in the first half.

A late Wigan charge that brought them three tries in six minutes could only briefly obscure that this was their worst performance for many years.

Without the injured Henry Paul and Gary Connolly, Wigan were truly dreadful as Warrington, spearheaded by their Kiwi centre, Nigel Vagana, took control with an ease that must have surprised even them. Vagana got the first of his hat-trick of tries after only five minutes, following a quick tap penalty when Wigan were caught offside.

A booming cross-field kick from Andy Farrell opened the way for Danny Ellison to equalise, but that was Wigan's only bright spot of the half. A penalty stupidly conceded by Terry O'Connor on the last tackle allowed Warrington to pile on the pressure and score through Tony Tatupu.

The Wigan coach, Eric Hughes, said his side had made "every mistake in the book" in the first half. Their next cost them another try, when Vagana picked off Sean Long's pass to go 50 yards and touch down.

Before the break, an audacious long pass from the 16-year-old scrum half, John Duffy, caught Wigan groping for the interception and Kelly Shelford went through the gap to score.

When Shelford's pass sent Vagana straight through two Wigan tackles for his third try, Warrington were 24 points ahead, and relatively unconcerned when Andy Johnson took the ball from Tony Smith to go in for Wigan.

The arrival of Craig Murdock generated some belated Wigan purpose. He supported Johnson's break to score the first of his side's swift trio of tries, before Ellison and Kris Radlinski both chased kicks to score.

With nine minutes left, it was on the cards for Wigan to stage a remarkable escape. But then Shelford was credited with a drop goal despite Doc Murray's insistence that he had touched the ball in flight and, in the last minute, Gareth Davies broke through and Lee Penny arrived to make victory safe.

"It was no stroke of genius," Warrington's stand-in coach, Paul Cullen, said of their transformation. "It was a guts call and the players responded to it."

Warrington: Penny; Henare, Roper, Vagana, Forster; Shelford, Duffy; Stevens, Hulme, Chambers, Mann, Tatupu, Sculthorpe. Substitutes used: Rudd, Davies, Carney.

Wigan: Murray; Ellison, A Johnson, Radlinski, Robinson; Long, Smith; Cowie, Cassidy, O'Connor, Haughton, Tallec, Farrell. Substitutes used: Hall, Murdock, Holgate.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).