This was the night that St Helens, who´ve led from the front all season, would seal the minor premiership and where better to do it than on the home ground of their arch-rivals the Wigan Warriors. Wigan needed the win to push the presentation of the trophy on to round twenty-six.
The bookies went with home advantage but favoured Wigan by the narrowest of margins, giving the Saints a narrow two point start in the coupon. Only two points have separated the two sides on their last two meetings, Saints winning the league game at the Magic weekend by 20-18 while Wigan won the Challenge Cup Semi-final by the same score line in May.
Saints were without Will Hopoate and Tommy Makinson, seeding some doubt in the Saints supporters’ minds, but they had sold out their crowd allocation as their fans believed they would see their side sew up the top spot and end Wigans unbeaten home record in 2022.
Jonny Lomax took the sting out of the early exchanges with a simple penalty goal after a Wigan infringement on their own line.
With ten minutes on the clock Bevan French put the Warriors into the lead as he took a short pass from Jai Field and went over the line under a crowd of Saints tacklers to ground one-handed in the corner. Harry Smith added the touchline conversion for a 6-2 lead.
A breakaway try was created by Harry Smith on twenty-one who cut through the Saints defence before passing to the supporting Field to go over under the sticks. Smith added the conversion to put the Warriors 12-2 ahead.
Konrad Hurrell had a try ruled out on twenty-five after the referee ruled that he lost the ball over the line under forceful Wigan defence.
On thirty-three Liam Farrell scored a superb solo try as he took a Smith pass and weaved his way to the line, stepping out of attempted tackles and dragging a tackler over the line with him to score. Smith was again accurate with the boot for 18-2, Wigan in total command of the game at the interval with Saints needed to spark into action.
Amazing defence from Wigan on fifty prevented Saints from getting their first try of the game. Seven minutes later it was again great defence to prevent Agnatius Paasi from grounding by the left post but within seconds Joey Lussick scooted from dummy half to lapse of concentration in the Wigan defence. Ben Davies was wide with his conversion attempt.
As the second half wore on it was all St Helens attack testing a resolute Wigan defence but totally against the run of play Liam Marshall scored a sensational try down the left wing s he sprinted free for fifty metres before avoiding being tackled into touch, regaining his feet, and going the remaining ten metres to stretch for the line and score. Smith added the touchline conversion for 24-6.
A Joe Batchelor try on seventy-three, taking a Lomax pass to go over in the corner. Davies was again unable to add the extras, Saints still fourteen points adrift with five minutes of the game remaining.
Wigan managed to run down the clock while denying the Saints any further points before French went in on the final hooter as he again took the Field pass and wriggled free of his tackler to sprint thirty metres down the right wing. Smith added the conversion to seal a 30-10 win.
The league leaders shield can go back in its box for another week as the Warriors spoiled their biggest rival’s party. Any thoughts that Saints will also lose to Wakefield and Toulouse are the those of a deluded fantasist, so it is only a matter of time until they do secure top spot. All credit to Wigan, this was a top-drawer performance from Peet´s men against a side who should have pushed them much harder than they did. On this performance Saints will be hoping that Wigan get knocked out of the play-offs before they have to face them at Old Trafford.
Wigan Warriors: Field (T), French (2T), Pearce-Paul, Isa, Marshall (T), Cust, Smith (5G), Singleton, O´Neill, Byrne, Farrell (T), Bateman, Smithies. Subs: Mago, Ellis, Cooper, Shorrocks.
St Helens: Welsby, Simm, Hurrell, Batchelor (T), Bennison, Davies, Lomax (G), Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Bell, Sironen, Knowles. Subs: Lussick (T), McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Paasi, Wingfield.
Score Progression: 0-2, 4-2, 6-2, 10-2, 12-2, 16-2, 18-2 : HT : 18-6, 22-6, 24-6, 24-10, 28-10, 30-10 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: St Helens – Wigan.
Referee: Ben Thaler.