St Helens took the derby spoils to end Wigan’s unbeaten home record with a 14-6 victory at the DW Stadium.
It’s an 11th consecutive league win that takes Saints ten points clear of their rivals at the top of the table, but it was a hard-fought clash.
St Helens took the lead after ten minutes, after Sam Powell knocked an interception forward to give them a scrum 10m out. Theo Fages put the kick in, Liam Marshall and Dan Sarginson collided as they both went for the ball, and Dominique Peyroux picked up to score a try converted by Danny Richardson.
The scrum-half added the only other points of the first half with a penalty, awarded after Sam Tomkins interfered at the play the ball after hauling down Luke Thompson on the break.
The Saints defence was resolute, and that was shown best when Wigan had their best spell of the half. Adam Swift had criminally knocked on a metre from the line and Tommy Makinson was then forced to concede a drop out, but the defence came out storming with a massive hit from Matty Lees and Taulima Tautai, who then knocked on a couple of plays later.
Saints continued strongly in the second half, getting the next points on the back of two consecutive penalties inside the Wigan 10m which they chose to run. Fages got the assist again with a short pass that allowed Morgan Knowles to force his way, and Richardson’s conversion attempt just squeezed inside the post to put them 14-0 up.
Wigan were looking increasingly desperate but they got regained some hope with ten minutes to go when Sam Tomkins produced a piece of individual magic. After Powell’s kick had forced a drop out and Dan Sarginson had been well held up, a sprayed pass left was taken by the full-back who skipped inside and went past six defenders to make it to the line for a try that he quickly converted.
The Warriors looked to pick up the pace in the final minutes as they attempted a late comeback, but it had come too late and St Helens were deserved victors.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Saints will do it tough
St Helens’ season has been defined by the skilful, attacking style of rugby brought in by Justin Holbrook, but this game was won by the fantastic performances in the pack.
The likes of Luke Thompson, Dominique Peyroux, Morgan Knowles and of course James Roby were all huge for the visitors.
They played the game at a high tempo as well, with quick play the balls alongside big carries draining the life out of the Warriors.
Home record over with whimper
Besides a late flurry towards the end, Wigan’s unbeaten home record this season was ended with something of a whimper.
The pack performed strongly and that made it a tough contest, but there was little attacking shape when they advanced into promising positions.
Sam Tomkins didn’t have an impact until his try came too late in the day, while the kicking of Sam Powell didn’t ask enough questions and the creativity of the injured George Williams has been clearly missing in recent weeks.
Man of the Match – James Roby (St Helens)
There were no shortage of candidates for this award amongst the St Helens pack, but nobody typified their attitude more than captain James Roby.
The hooker knows how to play in the big games, and with quick passes draining Wigan and massive tackles keeping them bay he was huge again in a fantastic all-round performance.
Wigan Warriors 6
Drop Goals: n/a
St Helens 14
Tries: Peyroux, Knowles
Goals: Richardson (3)
Drop Goals: n/a
Wigan: Tomkins; Davies, Hankinson, Sarginson, Marshall; Woods, Powell; Clubb, Leuluai, Flower; Isa, Bateman, Navarrete.
Interchanges: Tautai, Hamlin, Paisley, Greenwood.
St Helens: Lomax; Swift, Makinson, Morgan, Grace; Fages, Richardson; Amor, Roby, Thompson; Peyroux, Knowles, Wilkin.
Interchanges: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Lees, Ashworth.
Referee: Robert Hicks