St Helens’ pack steamrolled Wigan Warriors as they eased to victory to earn themselves a place in the Grand Final.
Saints made the perfect start to the game in the third minute as Lachlan Coote’s reverse grubber kick was touched down by Theo Fages.
Wigan attempted to hit back immediately by spreading it out wide early in the play but George Williams’ pass was picked out by Kevin Naiqaima who raced away to make it 12-0.
Liam Farrell then gave away a penalty for having a hand on the ball as Alex Walmsley played it. Coote converted to make it 14-0.
A misread from Mark Percival led to Chris Hankinson making a break who then passed the ball to the supporting Liam Marshall who scored near the posts.
St Helens then once again began to get on top. They could not handle the trio of Luke Thompson, Alex Walmsley and Morgan Knowles.
Thompson extended their lead as he ran the perfect line to run through a huge gap in the Wigan defence to score untouched.
Lomax then added to Wigan’s misery as he used to his footwork to touch down on the last tackle to make it 26-6 at half time.
After the break Saints once again ran it on the last tackle as Zeb Taia found an opening in the Wigan defence to score.
Wigan were shell shocked and continued to force pressure the way they did in the first half by forcing goal line drop outs. The subs of Jack Ashworth and Kyle Amor picked up where Thompson and Walmsley had left off by continuously trundling the ball forward.
Mark Percival was next on the score sheet after taking a looping Jonny Lomax pass to score in the corner. Coote was unable to add the extras.
He then scored his second of the night as he evaded a number of poor tackling attempts. Coote converted to make it 40-6.
Bevan French scored a consolation with only minutes of the game to go to make the final score 40-10.
Near perfect performance
St Helens put in their best performance of the season against Wigan. They started the game in exhilarating pace and kept up the intensity throughout the game. The likes of Thompson, LMS and Knowles steamrolled their opposition while Tommy Makinson and Mark Percival made good metres early on in the set. The short kicking game from Fages and Coote was outstanding as they forced a number of drop outs. They also only made one error in the first half.
Josh Papalii put forward his claim to being the best prop forward in the world earlier on in a match-winning display for Canberra against Souths but Thompson can also be considered after his performance against Wigan. Thompson put in a man of the match display with his relentless hit ups. He made more metres than Clubb, Powell, Isa, Byrne, Partington, O’Loughlin, Powell and Flower combined.
Wigan need to step up
If they play like they did on Friday night then Salford will turn them over. As good as Saints were, Wigan were awful. Their line speed was not good enough while the young pair of Partington and Byrne spent much of the game shooting out of the line to cause a mistake to no effect. While Tony Clubb made 11 metres from two carries which is inexcusable for a play-off game from one of your senior players.
While teams and individual players will get all the praise in the play-offs it is easy to forget the men in the middle. Chris Kendall has really performed in his play-off games this year letting the game flow and almost being unnoticeable. He surely has to ref the Grand Final.
St Helens 40
Tries: Fages, Naiqama, Thompson, Lomax, Taia, Percival (2)
Goals: Coote (6)
Drop Goals: n/a
Wigan Warriors 10
Tries: Marshall, French
Drop Goals: n/a
St Helens: Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, Thompson, Taia, Peyroux, Knowles.
Interchanges: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Ashworth, Smith
Wigan Warriors: Hardaker, Marshall, Hankinson, Gildart, Burgess, Williams, Leuluai, Clubb, Powell, Partington, Isa, Farrell, O’Loughlin.
Interchanges: Byrne, Flower, French, Smithies