A late Joel Tomkins try wasn’t enough to inspire a Wigan Warriors comeback as St Helens grabbed their seventh win in eight games to stay on top of the Super League table with a 21-18 triumph at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
The Warriors were hit with a blow pre-game as Sam Tomkins was ruled out through illness, handing an opportunity to Morgan Escaré at full back.
The Frenchman opened Wigan’s scoring account through a penalty in the fourth minute but this was the only time the Warriors would score in the first half as Saints touched down through Ben Barba and Zeb Taia.
Jon Wilkin offloaded to Luke Thompson who gave the ball to Barba, before the full back ran round Escarè to put the Saints infront.
Five minutes before half time, the Merseysiders crossed again as James Roby scooted from dummy half and sent Zeb Taia crashing over the line with three Wigan defenders.
Wigan opened the scoring in the second half as Joel Tomkins scored after George Williams’ delightful inside ball.
The away team edged themselves in front as a loose Sean O’loughlin pass found Willie Isa who scooped it up to get his name on the scoreboard.
Danny Richardson levelled the scores with a penalty to leave an exciting finish to the game.
Regan Grace put the Saints back in front with five minutes to go as a play which started on their own fourty saw several sets of hands touch the ball as Ryan Morgan found a gap on the right edge. The next tackle saw the ball shipped across to the left hand side allowing the young Welshman to score in the corner.
Danny Richardson then extended the lead to seven points with a drop goal, before Joel Tomkins grabbed a late consolation try, albeit in vein.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Ben Barba early favourite for Man of Steel?
Once again, Ben Barba shone to help Saints win. Saints fans should be extremely grateful that they’re able to witness such a talent pull on the red vee even if it is for just one year. If the full back isn’t the favourite for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award then who is?
Tomkins loss a huge blow
The late withdrawal of Sam Tomkins must’ve had an effect on Wigan’s game plan. Escaré is extremely talented in his own right but Tomkins offers that something a little bit extra in a big game such as this.
Wigan can hold their heads up high considering how well they dealt with the disruption Escaré’s concussion caused.
Losing both full backs would’ve caused major readjustments and the Warriors did well to deal with them and go in front.
Game management cost Wigan
Going into the final minute, Wigan should’ve turned down the kick at goal. This was a major mistake as who knows what could’ve happened if Wigan were able to throw the ball around at the death instead of letting the clock run down.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
Wigan Warriors boss Shaun Wane “I can’t put into words how bad I feel at the moment. The players are devastated- this is a very important game in our calendar but we’re a tight group.
“We’ve played well this year and did some good things today. In the cold light of day, when I watch that back, with the disruption we had during the game, I’ll be ok with it.”
Saints coach Justin Holbrook: “For us to come through and win, it was great.
“Some people pointed out we hadn’t won one in eight years so to win today was great for the players, club, the fans and town. I was very proud to watch the boys win today.”
ST HELENS 21
Tries: Barba, Taia, Grace
Goals: Richardson (4)
Drop Goals: Richardson
Tries: Tomkins (2), Isa
Goals: Williams (3)
Drop Goals: n/a
ST HELENS: 23. Ben Barba; 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 19. Regan Grace; 1. Jonny Lomax, 18. Danny Richardson; 10. Kyle Amor, 9. James Roby, 16. Luke Thompson, 17. Dom Peyroux, 11. Zeb Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin.
Subs: 6. Theo Fages, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Luke Douglas, 15. Morgan Knowles.
WIGAN: 20. Morgan Escare; 2. Tom Davies, 14. John Bateman, 4. Oliver Gildart, 5. Joe Burgess; 6. George Williams, 7. Sam Powell; 8. Tony Clubb, 9. Thomas Leuluai, 10. Ben Flower, 19. Willie Isa, 12. Liam Farrell, 13. Sean OíLoughlin.
Subs: 11. Joel Tomkins, 15. Ryan Sutton, 17. Taulima Tautai, 34. Josh Woods.