One of the seasons most eagerly anticipated games had a unfamiliar new slot as St Helens took on fierce rivals, the Wigan Warriors, for a Sunday evening kick-off in the opening game of round thirteen of Super League.
The Warriors have been on a downward spiral having lost on their last four outings while this is Saints first game for almost three weeks after the game against Hull KR was postponed, and they were awarded a walkover against the Castleford Tigers, who couldn’t raise a team.
The bookies couldn’t see past a home win, and a continuation of Wigan’s misery, and they gave the Warriors a twenty-point start on the coupon.
Most of the early pressure came from Saints, and it was an early indication that it would need to be a special Wigan performance to get anything out of the game. Despite the dominance, Saints opted to kick for goal on their first penalty award in kicking range, Lachlan Coote making it 2-0.
Within a minute Saints added a try. A kick to the corner was collected by Regan Grace after Jake Bibby failed to collect, the winger stepping past the falling defender to ground. Coote added the conversion and after fifteen minutes Saints had an 8-0 lead.
Wigan interference at the play-the-ball gifted Coote another two pointer on eighteen.
Coote added a try to his three goals on twenty-four, crashing the Wigan line and crossing on his back before stretching the ball over his head to ground. The Warriors couldn’t get a toehold in the game, and even before half time they were slipping away.
Another Coote penalty on thirty-four took full advantage of Wigan being offside on their own line to put his side three converted tries ahead.
As conditions worsened on the field, tempers frayed. A late hit by Kai Pearce-Paul saw referee James Child brandish the yellow card to the Wigan second rower. Coote put the ball on the tee but couldn’t add to the half time score.
The rain wasn’t easing as the second half got underway, some puddles starting to form on the field and it didn’t improve the Wigan mood as Willie Isa was sin-binned on forty-four, reducing the Warriors to eleven men, after a tip tackle and a follow up flop.
Mark Percival was first on the second half score sheet when he ran hard at the Wigan line and managed to keep a finger on the ball as he grounded with a stretched arm. Coote added the conversion for a 24-0 lead.
Wigan finally got on the board on fifty-four when Liam Farrell took a short pass five from the line and crashed over. Harry Smith added the extras, but Wigan were still well adrift.
The conditions were making it difficult for both sides to play any sort of expansive rugby. Neither side could register any further points, the spoils in the second half being shared at a single converted try each.
Saints resume after their enforced break with another win to maintain the pressure on the Catalans Dragons at the top. Wigan, on the other hand, have now lost their last five matches and have fallen from the top of the table to mid-table mediocrity and are currently sitting outside the play-off places.
St Helens: Coote (T, 6G), Makinson, Naiqama, Percival (T), Grace (T), Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Mata’utia, Batchelor, Knowles. Subs: Amor, Paasi, Welsby, Dodd.
Wigan Warriors: Hastings, Marshall, Gildart, Isa (SB on 44), Bibby, Smith (G), Leuluai, Singleton, Powell, Bullock, Farrell (T), Pearce-Paul (SB on 39), Havard. Subs: Byrne, Partington, Shorrocks, O’Neill.
Referee: James Child.
Score Progression: 2-0, 6-0, 8-0, 10-0, 14-0, 16-0, 18-0, (SB) : HT : (SB), 22-0, 24-0, 24-4, 24-6 : FT.