Whole different maul game

Dave Hadfield sees the push-over try tip the balance between the codes

It was not so much a case of lock up your daughters as lock up your railway stations when Wigan returned to Twickenham yesterday.

The cunning ploy of sending most of Wigan's supporters into the sidings at Richmond was partly responsible for keeping the crowd well below even its reduced 50,000 limit, however instructive that diversion could have been for Scott Quinnell. But in reality, there was never much chance that those wandering lost around south-west London would miss another propaganda coup for Rugby League.

Although Wigan were a very long way from being humiliated, this was a horses-for-courses occasion, with the sheer technical difficulty of getting the ball in their hands undermining all Wigan's good intentions until the game was long beyond them.

The most graphic illustration of the debilitating effects of not having the ball came when Henry Paul, such a torment for the opposition until injured in the Middlesex Sevens, squandered one of Wigan's few early scraps of possession with the clumsiest knock-on he will perpetrate between now and retirement.

The physical grind of chasing the ball and engaging in strange, unfamiliar procedures to try to win it also told on another of Wigan's great strengths.

They missed more tackles than they would in a dozen League games. If their opponents in Super League could subject them to 20 minutes of rucking and mauling at the start of every match, there would be hope for them all.

That was a point to ponder for the sprinkling of followers of other League clubs, who were present at the home of Rugby Union for the same reason that they traditionally go to Wigan's matches against the Australian tourists - because it is the best chance of seeing them beaten. Even they, I fancy, would have been relieved when Craig Murdock's try after Paul and Martin Offiah had made the running, removed the threat of Wigan being nilled.

The truly remarkable thing was that Wigan, for all the early pounding they had taken, found a second wind to finish as the stronger side. By the time that Va'aiga Tuigamala went over, it was Bath who looked the weary side. They certainly did when a move from behind Wigan's try line gave Murdock his second.

There is no answer in the Rugby League lexicon, however, to the push- over try and Bath were able to gain a measure of revenge at the end of what has been an intriguing experiment, even if it will never replace rugby.

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