It was semi-final night at the Totally Wicked Stadium as a St Helens side who’ve so far watched the play-offs from the sidelines had their change to make the Grand Final at the first time of asking. All that stood in the way of the all conquering Saints was their nearest and greatest rivals, Wigan Warriors.
The Warriors edged past a gritty Salford Red Devils last week to take their place in a fourth 2019 running of the worlds oldest derby match. Oliver Partington was back in the Wigan line up in place of the injured Dan Sarginson while Aaron Smith was recalled to the Saints side in place of Matty Costello.
Saints were bigger favourites with the bookies than recent form would suggest, the spectators arriving at the stadium weren’t quite so confident.
Just three minutes after the kick off, a reverse kick through from Lachlan Coote was pounced on by Theo Fages to take the ball and ground just short of the dead ball line. Coote added the conversion for the best possible start for the home side.
A Kevin Naiqama half way interception and fifty metre sprint saw the prolific centre over for the second try on ten minutes. Coote was again accurate with the boot for 12-0 and added another penalty goal on fifteen from twenty metres out.
Wigan finally found some joy on nineteen when Chris Hankinson made a break to supply Liam Marshall to push down the accelerator and go down the right wing to outpace Coote and score. Zak Hardaker added the conversion, Wigan now 6-14 behind.
On twenty-seven Luke Thompson crashed through a big hole in the Wigan defence, off a James Roby pass, after the Warriors had been forced to drop out under their own sticks. Coote kicked the comversion for a 20-6 home lead.
It was all too easy for Saints on thirty-three when Jonny Lomax carved through the Wigan defence past a slipping Willie Isa to dive over five metres left of the uprights. Coote made it five goals from five attempts as Saints eased themselves on the way to Old Trafford.
Zeb Taia was on hand to continue where Saints had left off in the first half when he took a neat pass, broke the line, and went in from ten metres for a forty-fifth minute try. Coote finally missed with the boot, but Wigan had no answer to the Saints grilling.
On the hour mark Mark Percival was on hand at the end of a cross field passing move to take a Fages pass and score in an ocean of space. Coote missed the conversion from wide, Saints 34-6 ahead.
Tony Clubb clattered Lachlan Coote after he put in a kick on sixty-four but referee Kendall took no action beyond warning the player.
Percival got his second on seventy-four through a broken Wigan defence as their supporters started to file out of the ground. Coote and Fages has probed the line before they put Percival in. Coote hit the target to bring up the forty.
A seventy-eighth minute Bevan French try, throwing the dummy and goinf through a gap, was scant consolation for the Warriors but did show that they would play to the final whistle. Hardaker hit the far uprights for a final score of 10-40.
This was far simpler than Saints could have dreamed as they destroyed Wigan to take their rightful place in the Grand Final. They’ve dominated all season, and tonight was no exception. Wigan have to beat the Salford Red Devils next weekend to set up a rematch, and if they do get past the Red Devils, who’d bet against them putting on a far better show in the season finale.
Saints: Coote (6G), Grace, Naiqama (T), Percival (2T), Makinson, Lomax (T), Fages (T), Walmsley, Roby, Thompson (T), Peyroux, Taia (T), Knowles. Subs: Smith, Amor, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Ashworth
Hardaker (G), Marshall (T), Hankinson, Gildart, Burgess, Williams, Leuluai, Clubb, Powell, Partington, Isa, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Subs: Byrne, Flower, French (T), Smithies.
Referee: Chris Kendall.