St. Helens re-established their 6-point lead at the top of Super League after they survived a second half fightback from Wakefield to win 34-30 at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
Regan Grace opened the scoring following a well-worked move from a scrum after the Saints moved the ball quickly to the left to create an overlap, and Grace was the spare man who was put over for an easy try.
Trinity levelled the scores shortly after through a somewhat fortunate try for Tom Johnstone. St. Helens had possession just a metre out from their own line and were looking to find a way through the defence, however, Ryan Morgan’s offload failed to find a teammate and Johnstone simply plucked the ball out of the air and put it down to score.
But, Saints were looking the much more dangerous side and retook the lead when Jonny Lomax scored for the second game in succession. The try was again created down St. Helens’ left edge as Ben Barba and Mark Percival combined to find space before one pass inside the fullback put Lomax in the clear to dive over.
A controversial try then came for Saints when Tommy Makinson looked to have knocked on, but the video referee ruled the ball had come off the winger’s head and gone backwards despite the ball bouncing towards Trinity’s goal line. Danny Richardson picked up to go over unopposed and put the home side in a comfortable position.
With just a minute to go before half-time a penalty was awarded to Saints following a high tackle and they opted to go for goal to make it a three-score game. Richardson slotted over his fourth conversion of the half to make it 20-6.
Trinity came out from the break full of intent and three tries in the opening 15 minutes of the half saw them take the lead for the first time on the night. First, Ryan Hampshire touched down after a break by Matty Ashurst to give Wakefield a much needed confidence boost before Jacob Miller pulled of a fantastic ‘kick and collect’ to score just minutes later.
The momentum was now with the visitors and an uncharacteristic knock-on by Barba gifted them a full set ten metres from Saints’ line, and Wakefield took full advantage of the opportunity when Mason Caton-Brown scooted over from acting-half to complete the turnaround.
They weren’t finished there either, as Johnstone scored his second of the night on the back of a flowing move to the left involving Hampshire and Tupou to make it 20-26 after an hour.
An explosive 20 minutes on a hot night on Merseyside clearly took it’s toll, though, as league leaders Saints battled back starting with a length of the field effort. Mark Percival escaped the defenders and got into the Wakefield half before shifting the ball to Grace, who cut back inside to score.
James Roby then forced his way over after St. Helens had kept the ball alive as the league leaders went ahead once more, and Zeb Taia sealed the two points when he managed to ground the ball despite the attention of several defenders, although replays showed the try should have been disallowed for a double movement.
Reece Lyne finished brilliantly in the corner to make it 34-30 with little over a minute left but, despite Wakefield turning down the conversion as they looked to find a leveller, time ran out for Chris Chester’s men who just fell short despite a huge second half effort.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Saints survive scare
St. Helens had to dig deep to secure their 17th Super League win of the season after Wakefield shot out of the traps at the start of the second half to take a surprise lead.
In the end, though, Saints showed why they are in such a commanding position in the league as they went up another level to avoid just a third defeat of the season.
Wakefield can feel hard done by
Although they lost, Wakefield can feel proud of their efforts in the knowledge that, with a little more luck, they could easily have come away with the win.
James Batchelor arguably should have been awarded a penalty try after the ball was kicked out of his hands as he went to ground it, and Zeb Taia’s score should have been chalked off for a double movement.
If those decisions, as well as a few others, would have gone in their favour then Trinity could have been celebrating a ‘double’ over the Saints in 2018.
Man Of The Match- James Roby (St. Helens)
After playing for England in Denver last week, 32-year-old Roby backed up to play a key part in his teams win.
As always, his hard-work in both attack and defence shone through and it was fitting that it was his try that put Saints back in front.
St. Helens 34
Tries: Grace 2, Lomax, Richardson, Roby, Taia.
Goals: Richardson 5.
Drop Goals: n/a
Wakefield Trinity 30
Tries: Johnstone 2, Hampshire, Miller, Caton-Brown, Lyne.
Goals: Finn 3.
Drop Goals: n/a
St. Helens: Barba, Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Richardson, Douglas, Roby, Thompson, Peyroux, Taia, Wilkin.
Replacements: Fages, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Knowles, Lees.
Wakefield Trinity: Hampshire, Caton-Brown, Tupou, Lyne, Johnstone, Miller, Finn, England, Randell, Fifita, Batchelor, Ashurst, Arona.
Replacements: Wood, Hirst, Pauli, Annakin.
Referee: James Child.