Legends roll back the years

AS Andy Farrell cut through and sent Jason Robinson scorching away towards the tryline, fans may have felt they had been whisked back in time.

Many of Wigan’s modern masters rolled back the years, in a misty-eyed curtain-raiser to the Big One 5 between Wigan and Leeds at the DW Stadium.

Wigan rugby legends in training

Wigan rugby legends in training

Robinson reminded us why he was nicknamed Billy Whizz, Gary Connolly and Henry Paul showed flashes of their old majestic poise and class, Kris Radlinski ran his blood to water and Farrell was, well, Farrell.

It was scrappy in parts, as union games often are, but there was enough open play to entertain the interested supporters as the Joining Jack side ran out 16-4 winners.

Andy Johnson, the former Warriors star who formed Joining Jack to raise money for research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy following his son Jack’s diagnosis with the incurable illness, was visibly moved by the way the crowd had come out early to support his charity.

“I loved it, really enjoyed it,” he said as he left the pitch.

“The fans have been spectacular getting behind us. It’s heart-warming and keeps us going, you see the jerseys in the crowd.

“We’re making big progress and we’re grateful to everyone who has taken part.

“I can’t thank the lads enough, we’re getting older now so it’s not easy to do but the lads enjoyed it and the support has been there for us.

“We’ve given everyone a taste of what it’s like in Dubai. It wasn’t our best performance but it’s a little taster that there may be some legs in it going further.”

The game was 20 minutes long and played under union rules, as part of the Joining Jack team’s preparation for the Dubai Sevens tournament in December.

Within two minutes, the home side had taken the lead.

Farrell, having put on a strong shot earlier, cut inside from the left edge and found Robinson on his inside. The winger - showing trademark pace- dashed over under the sticks, and Farrell stepped up to kick the conversion, drop-goal style.

“It was textbook,” smiled Johnson.

“It was always going to happen. Out in Dubai he scored ones like he scored 10-15 years ago. He’s still got it.”

Sean Long, looking far more youthful than his last years in Super League, twice proved his defensive resolve on the left wing.

Denis Betts thought he had chance to extend their leap, scooping up a loose ball and racing away with Long in support, only for the referee to call the play back for an infringement.

With the second-half about to begin, loud cheers greeted the sight of Henry Paul - having been delayed in traffic - jogging down the sideline. The women among the fans turned up the volume as he stripped off to get his kit on.

On the field, Brad Hepi pulled the score back to close the margin to two points - the game had league scoring, with four points for a try and two for a goal.

The Joining Jack side failed to recycle what little possession they had, but they improved, and showed some vintage flashes.

Paul’s balanced, effortless running made metres down the right, the ball was swung to the left, where Connolly’s swerve opened up space for Farrell to exploit.

He angled over to loud support, for a try he converted. And just before the whistle, a loose ball was hacked on for Andy Craig to chase.

Paul Sculthorpe pushed the conversion attempt wide - what a shame he didn’t do that more often in derbies!

Joining Jack Legends: Radlinski, Robinson, Johnson, Connolly, Sampson, Sculthorpe, Long, Paul, Cassidy, Joynt, Betts, Craig, Farrell, Dermott, Hampson.

Charity Sporting Prints Legends: Dudley, David, Milne, Paramore, Roach, Bowen, Umaga, Matcht, Scarbrough, Woodward, Hepi, Topping, Fitchley, Blenkinson, Ellis, Bateman, Higgins, Hunte.