Wigan Warriors made it eight Good Friday wins in a row, as they beat a battling 12-man St Helens 29-18 on a wet and windy afternoon down at the DW Stadium. Wigan get their first win, in five attempts, while Saints make it three defeats on the spin.
RED CARD RUINED THE GAME
The game had a bit of a slow start, as both sides edged their way into it. There seemed to be no real moments that got the crowd or the players going, in the opening 10 minutes or so. Then, in the 13th minute, Liam Marshall took the high kick from Matty Smith, and ran it back in towards Kyle Amor, who caught him with a clothesline type shot, around the head. It received an instant red card from referee Ben Thaler, as both sets of fans came alive.
Now, in fast play, live at the ground, it seemed a definite red card. However, having since watched it back, it is a very harsh decision, in my opinion. Amor catches Marshall on the arm, and that impact shoots Amor’s arm towards the head of Marshall, and it looks a nasty one in fast play. Credit to Marshall, as he got straight back up to his feet, and didn’t play off the high shot.
As a Wigan fan, I was obviously happy to see a rival player sent off, but it did ruin the game. You always like to watch these huge derby games at level pegging’s. The funny thing with the red card, was that it seemed to effect Wigan more than it did Saints, as the Warriors started to panic with the ball and struggled to break down the 12-man St Helens. Mark Percival would kick a penalty to settle the nerves, and gave Saints a 2-0 lead after 18 minutes.
BATTLING EFFORT FROM BOTH
Wigan finally got on the board just minutes after the penalty-goal from Saints. On his return to the side, Joe Burgess was on the end of a great little grubber, kicked through from George Williams, to give Wigan a 6-2 lead. This seemed to spur Wigan on, and you sensed that if they got over again pretty soon, then they could run riot. But Saints didn’t want to let this one go easy, and they stood strong in the first half.
For the remaining 18 minutes of the half, it seemed to just be played near the Saints line, as Wigan would have countless sets. But the Saints defence was doing well, and held strong. Wigan seemed to be at a loss for ideas at times, and couldn’t find a gap to sneak through. It started to become really frustrating as the game went on, and even though Wigan were in full control of the game, a four-point lead wasn’t good enough.
Then, in the 32nd minute came a great moment, as Michael McIlorum made his long-awaited return following 14-months out through injury. His return was met with a thunderous applaud from the Wigan fans. It was great to see the hooker back out there in cherry and white. With minutes to go in the first half, Wigan decided to kick at goal following a penalty, and they went into halftime 8-2 up.
GREAT SEVEN-MINUTE SPELL WON THE GAME
In the first half, there seemed to be no real threat from Saints, and even though it was only a six-point lead, as a Wigan fan, there seemed to be little doubt in getting the win. However, just two-minutes into the second half, and the impressive Regan Grace made a huge break, and set-up the next play in which Morgan Knowles scored near the posts. Suddenly, the game was level, at 8-8.
Almost immediately, Wigan were back in front. George Williams threw a huge, pinpoint pass out wide towards Liam Marshall, who cutback inside to go over for a great try. Morgan Escaré would then kick a drop-goal to put Wigan 15-8 ahead. Then, Regan Grace got a deserved try on his Saints debut, with a great finish in the corner, as Saints now trailed 15-12 with just over 20 minutes to go.
Then came a great seven-minute spell, in which Wigan scored three tries, and ultimately won the game. The three tries came from Liam Farrell, Liam Marshall and Joe Burgess. The Marshall try was an outstanding finish from the young winger, who is now Wigan’s top scorer in the Super League with eight tries. Tommy Makinson got a late consolation for Saints, but Wigan would run out 29-18 winners for the eight consecutive Good Friday.
YOUNG STARS STOLE THE LIMELIGHT
It wasn’t the greatest Wigan/Saints derby we’ve ever seen, but it sure was a battle. After leaving the game, apart from the red cad, the major talking point from it was the performances of Liam Marshall and Regan Grace. While we already know how good Marshall is, having been in the side for the previous five games, it was his derby debut, which adds a whole new level of nerves.
As for Saints, they handed out a debut to 20-year old, Welsh international, Regan Grace. What a player he looks to be. I know it may sound daft to say that after just one game, but he was outstanding. Except an error in the second half, when he knocked on from a kick-off, he was superb. His try was well deserved, and he was influential in Saints’ first try of the game too. I look forward to seeing more of him in the coming weeks.
It’s great to be seeing new, young stars in these big derby games, and these two could be the future of both clubs. I must mention Tom Davies too. Yet again, he was great out on the wing, and since coming in a few weeks back, he’s been brilliant. Like Marshall and Grace, he didn’t look out of place this afternoon. It’s great to see clubs not scared of chucking their young talent in the deep end, long may it continue.
Wigan Warriors coach Shaun Wane:
“I’m not really bothered how we play in a game like that, we just needed to get the win and we did. It’s not always an advantage playing against 12-men.”
“Liam Farrell impressed me and Lockers was good during his spell too. Micky did well. He wanted to go back on at the end but my physio would have killed me.”
“Marshy loves showing off. He was good, as was Tom Davies. Credit to everyone who has coached them both.”
St Helens interim coach Jamahl Lolesi:
“I couldn’t have asked any more of the boys today. They fought hard for each other and they fought hard for the club.”
“When we were down in the trenches, the fans were fantastic. We need everyone to get behind us over this Easter period.”
“Regan Grace was fantastic. He’s a credit to our youth system. You won’t see too many better debuts for St Helens.”
IN THE SHEDS
Kyle Amor was sent off in the 13th minute of the game following a high shot on Liam Marshall. There were no other incidents in the game that would call the RFL to look back on.
There were no immediate injuries reported from either side following the game. Although Anthony Gelling seemed to struggle through, and was finally brought off with around 10 minutes to go, and Saints centre, Ryan Morgan left the field limping in the second half.
Wigan Warriors: (8) 29
Tries: Burgess 2, Marshall 2, Farrell
Conversions: Escaré 3/5
Drop-goal: Escaré 1/1
St Helens: (2) 18
Tries: Knowles, Grace, Makinson
Conversions: Percival 2/3
Red card: Amor (13th minute)
Wigan Warriors: Escaré, Davies, Gelling, Burgess, Marshall, Williams, Leuluai, Nuuausala, Powell, Flower, J. Tomkins, Farrell, O’Loughlin.
Replacements: Tautai, Sutton, Isa, McIlorum.
St Helens: Makinson, Grace, Percival, Morgan, Swift, Fages, Smith, Amor, Lee, Douglas, Taia, Wilkin, McCarthy-Scarsbrook.
Replacements: Walmsley, Thompson, Richards, Knowles.
Referee: Ben Thaler (RFL)
Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan
Date/Time: Friday 14th April 2017 – 12:15pm GMT