Mark Percival scores a late brace to snatch a superb 22-19 victory for St Helens on a sunny evening at the Totally Wicked Stadium. Wigan led 19-18 with just over six-minutes to go, but could quite hold on, as Justin Holbrook starts with two wins from two.
SAINTS GET OFF TO A FLYER
It was a very fast start to the game for St Helens as they looked to get off the mark early doors. Their ruck speed was miles ahead of Wigan’s and they looked in good spirits. It took them just four minutes to get the first try of the game as a Matty Smith kick was caught by Ryan Morgan who crashed over for the try. It was just the start that Saints were looking for, and a disaster start for the Warriors.
Saints would take full control of the game in the opening 10-15 minutes and they had Wigan where they wanted them. They were making more yards, and had great field position in attack and defence. Wigan started to grow into the game after about 10 minutes, and as Saints started to make a few handling errors, it finally gave Wigan some good field position. At last, they had the chance to attack the Saints line.
In the 14-minute, Wigan played the ball out wide and it found the hands of Tom Davies who finished with ease in the corner. It was Wigan’s first real attack of the game and they had a try to show for it. Wigan targeted the right-edge of Saints all night, and that’s where the opening try came from. The scores where level at 6-6 as the game started to become more balanced.
WIGAN TAKE CONTROL
In the 22nd minute, George Williams would kick a penalty to put Wigan 8-6 ahead, and from that point onwards, Wigan started to take control of the game. Saints seemed rather nervous and shocked by the Wigan response, and started to make a few more errors, as Wigan enjoyed some possession. However, they couldn’t quite do much with it, knocking on near the Saints line on a couple of occasions.
Then, in the 29th minute, Sam Powell made a superb darting run from dummy-half and found Lewis Tierney on his inside, who went under the sticks for a brilliant Wigan try. Wigan now led 14-6, and where good for it. At this point you sensed Wigan would kick on and get the next try to put Saints in further trouble, but that wasn’t the case. In the final 10-minutes of the half, Saints put pressure on Wigan, and were rewarded with a try.
There was about four minutes to go until halftime, and Wigan were being pushed near the line. You felt like it was an important time in the game for both sides. It was another Matty Smith kick, that was pounced on by Zeb Taia to get Saints to just 12-14 behind. Mark Percival missed a penalty attempt right on the hooter to get them level, but it wasn’t to be and Wigan led 14-12 at halftime.
OUTSTANDING DEFENSIVE EFFORTS
It had been a superb game of rugby league between these two struggling sides. You’d have thought both where the top two sides in the league, the efforts both in attack and defence were that of high quality throughout the game. The opening 15-minutes of the second half was all St Helens. They had multiple sets on the Wigan line, and looked destined to retake the lead.
However, it was an unbelievable Wigan defensive line that stood strong for a good 10-minutes at least, to keep them out. It had everything, there was last ditch, big hits and some outstanding scrambling efforts. As Wigan soaked up all the Saints pressure, it was now their turn to trouble the St Helens defensive line. After a few wasted opportunities that ended by a knock-on and being slammed into touch, Wigan finally got their try.
Adam Swift couldn’t quite deal with a Williams grubber kick through the line, and Joe Burgess just managed to get a hand to the ball before going out of play. It came from nothing, and I’m sure Justin Holbrook would have been disappointed with it. Williams would miss the kick and Wigan only led by a converted try at 18-12. There was still just under 20 minutes to go in the game, and it was all to play for.
PERCIVAL BREAKS WIGAN HEARTS
As the game entered its final 15 minutes, you could sense the tension around the ground. There was only six-points in it, but you fancied Wigan to see it out. However, in the 67th minute, Mark Percival finished off a long Saints play, and scored right under the sticks. Suddenly, the scores where level at 18-18, and the game was literally anyone’s to win. As the game fashioned into the final stages, the thoughts of a drop-goal started to emerge.
Matty Smith would have the first go, however his attempt drifted well wide of the posts. Then, in the 72nd minute, Leuluai kicked one with his first attempt, and Wigan led 19-18 with just over six-minutes to go. Both sides were feeling it, and you still felt like there was one last twist, as there always is with these two sides. Unfortunately for Wigan and their fans, that twist came in the 77th minute as Mark Percival won the game for St Helens.
As the Wigan defence shaped up for a Smith drop-goal, the half-back stepped inside and put a huge bomb in the air, only for Percival to beat Tierney to the ball and drop over the line for the match-winning try. It was a great result for Saints, who make it two wins in a row, as their new manager keeps his 100% record. As for Wigan, it’s four Super League games without a win, and it only gets tougher from here on out.
St Helens head coach Justin Holbrook:
“I’m new, but I knew how important that game was. Percy was great. He didn’t get a lot of ball, stayed patient, and then scored two massive tries.
“To experience a win like that where you didn’t play well can only help the group. It was a really tough game, full credit to Wigan.
“It was a great atmosphere from both sides, it sounded like 40,000, and there wasn’t too much in the game.”
Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:
“It’s a tough one to take. I’m very proud of our efforts, I thought we had the majority of the game.
“I think the neutral will think we were the better team, if I’m honest. We had some tough calls I have to say, we did some defending. We could and should have won.
“We showed some toughness – if we keep doing that and the half the salary-cap I’ve got in the gym come back, we’ll be alright.”
IN THE SHEDS
Wigan would lose Liam Forsyth just before halftime due to a concussion, he didn’t return.
St Helens lost Luke Douglas and Theo Fages in the second half, neither player returned to the game.
There were a couple of stoppages during the game as both teams came together, but nothing happened that would cause the RFL to act.
St Helens: (12) 22
Tries: Morgan, Taia, Percival 2
Conversions: Percival 3/4
Penalties: Percival 0/1
Wigan Warriors: (14) 19
Tries: Davies, Tierney, Burgess
Conversions: Williams 2/3
Penalties: Williams 1/1
Drop-goals: Leuluai 1/1
St Helens: Makinson, Swift, Percival, Morgan, Grace, Fages, Smith, Walmsley, Roby, Amor, Taia, Wilkin, Knowles.
Interchanges: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Thompson, Lee.
Wigan Warriors: Tierney, Davies, Forsyth, Burgess, Marshall, Williams, Leuluai, Nuuausala, McIlorum, Sutton, Isa, Farrell, O’Loughlin.
Interchanges: Fields, Powell, Tautai, Wells.
Referee: Phil Bentham
Venue: Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens
Date/Time: Thursday 25th May 2017 – 20:00pm GMT