SAINTS WIN WITH EASE IN FIERCE DERBY
St Helens made it 5 wins on the spin, after beating their rivals, Wigan Warriors by 23-4 on a wet and windy night at the DW Stadium. The 347th Derby was contested in front of a Super League season’s best attendance of 20,049. Wigan suffered back to back defeats for only the second time this season, while St Helens leapfrogged Catalans into 4th.
It was a night to forget for the Warriors, as they put in their worst performance of the season so far. The conditions didn’t help on the night, as both sides came up with too many errors, 20 for Wigan and 13 for Saints. The difference being, Saints pounced on the Wigan errors, while Saints made up for theirs. Another factor in the game, was Wigan’s poor discipline in key areas. It has been an issue all season, with needless penalties given away, to give the opponent repeat sets on their line and the it just put more pressure on the Warriors.
Saints got the first points of the game through a Percival penalty after Sam Tomkins caught Matty Flemming high. Wigan did respond well, scoring only a few minutes later after Williams kicked a little grubber into the corner, which Lewis Tierney pounced on to score. Saints were level following another penalty, after Willie Isa was pulled up for a dangerous throw on Jordan Turner right in front of the sticks. Saints had a blistering final 8 minutes of the half, as they hit Wigan with two tries through Percival and Knowles to stretch their deserved lead to 16-4 at halftime.
OUTSTANDING DEFENSIVE DISPLAY
After Lewis Tierney scored in the 11th minute of the game, Wigan didn’t threaten enough to get back into the game. It was clear to see that Wigan were way off their game, their attacking prowess that had been there in their 8 game unbeaten run, was nowhere to be seen. It was also one of the worst games that the halfback pairing of Smith and Williams had together in a long time.
However, having said all that, you can’t take away the defensive effort that St Helens put in last night. It was as stubborn as they come. They had a clear game plan when they arrived at the DW last night. Which was defend, defend, defend and take our chances when they come, which they did to perfection. It was very similar as to what Leeds did last week against Wigan, Cunningham obviously watched that game and knew how to beat that Wigan side. In the second half, Wigan had the ball for near 20 minutes. One period of play saw Wigan gain 3 penalties on the Saints line, and had repeat sets. However, Saints stood strong and gave Wigan no chance of getting over the line.
Sam Tomkins, who was far from his best last night, thought he’d finally clawed one back for Wigan, however he was superbly held up over the line by Joe Greenwood. Lewis Tierney had a fantastic chance with 12 minutes to go, however an excellent try saving tackle from Jack Owens prevented him the try. This was to be Wigan’s last real chance to get back into he game, as any other attacks were either broken down by Saints, or ended with a Wigan error. The game could still be going on now, and I still don’t think Wigan would’ve managed to score.
OUTPLAYED, OUTFOUGHT AND OUTSMARTED
Saints ended the game on a high as a Luke Walsh drop goal was followed up by a James Roby try in the final moments of the game, to seal a fantastic 23-4 win for the revitalised St Helens. Kieron Cunningham’s men move into 4th, and depending on how Catalans get on this weekend, could stay there going into the Super 8’s, which seemed an impossibility only a month or so ago.
For any non-rugby fan watching this game, they would never have guessed that this was the biggest derby in the sport. While Saints played with clear passion and pride for their shirts. The Wigan players did not, with many players having games to forget, it was very disappointing for the Wigan fans to sit and watch that performance from their players.
In the last couple of weeks, Wigan have fallen victim to two poor performances against sides that they should be beating. They have rode their luck all season, and many feel that Wigan have been in a false position being in the top two for so long. When you look at the games they have been winning, they have won 10 games by 7 points or less, which just goes to show how much of a tough season it has been for the Warriors. Many of these games could’ve easily gone the other way.
VIEW OF THE MANAGERS
Wigan coach, Shaun Wane was obviously disappointed and mainly vented his frustration with their attacking game. Wane said:
“I’m gutted, devastated. We didn’t turn up and got what we deserved.” He added, “The smartest team won. They were good on the floor and were allowed to be good.”
“Our defence was very good for large parts of the game but our attack was off. Too many individual players had a poor game.”
“We’ve got seven hard days of work ahead of us now. We need to make sure we turn up against Hull with the same commitment to defence but we’ve got to be better on attack.”
St Helens coach, Keiron Cunningham was pleased with the result and commented on their top four chances. Cunningham said:
“I’m just pleased for my players, they stood up to everything Wigan threw at us – they could probably still be playing now and not score.”
“That’s what self-belief brings to a side. We went through a tough spell but we’re a real close-knit group and now we’re heading in the right direction.”
“Wigan are a great attacking side and were fully stacked tonight. They had lots of threats but I thought we stuck to the plan. He added, “We’re not going to fall in love with ourselves, we give ourselves a good shot for the top four.”
IN THE SHEDS
It was a fiery derby game, one which had a few feisty incidents to look back on.
Willie Isa’s dangerous throw on Jordan Turner in the first half of the game was an offence that is being clamped down on more and more, and I think this will be another. In the final minutes of the game, tempers began to flare between both sides as an ugly free-for-all threatened to stain the game. New boy, Frank-Paul Nu’uausala and McCarthy-Scarsbrook were both sin-binned for their involvement. Nu’uausala seemed to pull the hair of Scarsbrook and lay a punch after a little slap from the St Helens second-rower. I feel both players will be in front of the RFL panel next week.
Wigan Warriors’ Sam Powell left the game with an injury, and didn’t return. Dom Crosby also left the field with what looked like an injury to his arm. Wane confirmed the injury and said he will assessed in the coming days.
There were no injuries to report for St Helens.
Wigan Warriors: (4) 4
Goals: Smith 0/1
St Helens: (16) 23
Tries: Percival, Knowles, Roby
Goals: Percival 5/5
Drop-goals: Walsh 1/1
Wigan Warriors: S Tomkins; Tierney, Gildart, Sarginson, Manfredi; Williams, Smith; Sutton, Powell, Flower, Bateman, Isa, O’Loughlin.
Replacements: Crosby, Nuuausala, Mossop, Shorrocks.
St Helens: Lomax; Owens, Fleming, Percival, Swift; Turner, Walsh; Walmsley, Roby, Richards, Greenwood, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Wilkin.
Replacements: Amor, Vea, Thompson, Knowles.
Referee: Phil Bentham.
Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan
Date/Time: Friday 22nd July 2016 – 20:00pm GMT