St. Helens: Tries: Sia Soliola, Tommy Makinson. Goals: Mark Percival, 3/3.
Wigan Warriors: Tries: Joe Burgess. Goals: Matty Smith, 1/3.
Wigan Warriors paid the full price for Ben Flower’s second minute dismissal as they lost their Super League crown to bitter rivals, St Helens on a tense evening at Old Trafford.
Saints were 14-6 winners in a fiery encounter, with Wigan down to 12 men for almost the entire match after Welshman Flower became the first player to be sent off in a Grand Final.
Flower took exception to Saints’ Lance Hohaia’s use of a forearm on him and reacted by knocking him to the ground, he then struck the defenceless New Zealander with a second punch to his face while he was flat out on the turf – ending the stand-off’s involvement in the game.
Despite this setback, Flower’s 16 remaining team mates heroically battled on and took the lead with seconds left in the first half through Joe Burgess.
St Helens struggled take advantage of their extra man with no natural half backs on the pitch, but Sia Soliola’s try, on his final appearance for the newly-crowned champions, helped to put his side ahead for the first time on 53 minutes. Then, winger Tommy Makinson added a second try on 68 minutes to secure the club’s first title since 2006.
The animosity that simmers under the surface in every clash between these two great clubs was brought to the fore with Shaun Wane’s pre-match comments and it was almost immediately demonstrated on the pitch when Wigan’s Dom Crosby was hit by a crunching hit from Saints prop Kyle Amor.
Wigan halfback Smith, who played for Saints in the 2010 final between the two sides opted to take the opportunity to give his side a two point lead on 17 minutes but Wigan’s indiscipline gave Percival the chance to level the scores at 2-2 with a penalty of his own soon after.
But it was Wane’s 12 men who took a lead into half time after Blake Green’s cut out pass on the left edge found Burgess who squeezed in on the touchline to score the game’s first try. Smith put his conversion attempt wide.
After the break, momentum began to swing into Saints’ favour with Soliola collecting a Roby pass before battering his way over the Wigan line despite the attentions of a number of defenders. Percival tagged on the extras to give his side a slender two point lead.
Wigan had the next chance to add points after they were awarded a penalty to the right of the sticks but Smith again dragged his effort wide.
It was a miss that would prove to be costly as Makinson crashed over with 12 minutes to go, leaping above the Warriors defence to collect a Paul Wellens bomb and touch down, Percival once again converted.
Wigan lifted themselves for one final assault in the closing moments, forcing the Saints defence into action with some expansive play as the seconds ticked down, but the final hooter came too soon for last year’s winners who end the 2014 campaign empty handed.
Harry Sunderland Trophy Winner (MOTM): James Roby.