Super League 2020’s top two sides came together in the original derby as second placed Wigan Warriors took on the league leaders and defending champions St Helens in a round nineteen clash at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
A win for Wigan would lift them to the top of the pile but a victory for St Helens would render them almost unstoppable in their charge for the minor premiership. Saints were big favourites for the win, but Wigan had just a six point start on the handicap coupon.
It was the local derby though, anything could happen.
There was little to choose between the two sides in the opening twenty-nine minutes. Defences were king, Saints had slightly edged the possession and position, but Wigan had also been presented with chances which they weren’t able to convert.
Tempers frayed on twenty-one after a Willie Isa flop on Theo Fages with most players getting themselves involved in some way, but the referee warned both club captains.
Saints finally broke the Wigan defence when Jonny Lomax broke through the defensive line before an inside pass to Lachlan Coote to cross for the games’ opening try. The Saints full-back added the conversion for a 6-0 lead in the tightest of opening halves.
A brilliant Joe Greenwood break saw the Wiganer stopped twenty short. From the next play the ball Zak Hardaker put in a speculative kick to the corner which was collected by Jake Bibby who somehow evaded the Saints tacklers and went over for the four pointer. Hardaker was just wide of the target but within five minutes of the Saints opener, Wigan had responded.
On fifty-three Zak Hardaker went close but on the next play of the ball Thomas Leuluai pushed away the Saints defenders to get over for the four pointer to put the Cherry and Whites into the lead. Hardaker again smashed his kick across the front of the sticks, a good day with the ball in hand but not with the boot.
Wigan scored the try of the game on sixty-two when Bevan French took the ball forty from the Saints line and mesmerising the defence to jink his way to the line for the third Warriors try. Hardaker missed a third conversion attempt of the evening, Saints now trailing by six points.
With eleven minutes left on the clock Jackson Hastings dipped the shoulder and ran the angle to dive over. Hardaker, for the first time in the game, added the conversion for 18-6. Saints needed three tries to stop Wigan going top of the league.
An awful high shot from Joe Greenwood on Matty Lees saw the Wigan player sin-binned with two minutes remaining, the Wigan substitute counting himself as lucky that the colour wasn’t red.
Wigan came from behind to score a decisive win which lifts them above their archrivals in into the top spot on the league ladder. Hastings and French were the Wigan architects in a rough and tough encounter which boiled over on several occasions and may well see some action from the disciplinary panel.
St Helens: Coote (T, G), Grace, Welsby, Naiqama, Makinson, Lomax, Fages, Graham, Roby, Lees, Taia, Bentley, Knowles. Subs: Peyroux, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Paulo.
Wigan Warriors: French (T), Burgess J, Gildart, Hardaker (G), Bibby (T), Hastings (T), Leuluai (T), Bullock, Powell, Singleton, Farrell, Isa, Partington. Subs: Clubb, Flower, Greenwood (SB on 78), Smithies.
Referee: Chris Kendall.
Half Time: 6-4.
Full Time: 6-18.
Venue: Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens.