The clash between second placed St Helens and a Warrington Wolves side in third, was on paper the most intriguing game of the Bank Holiday Monday rounds with the opportunity that a win for the home side would lift them within a whisper to their opponents with three games left in the regular season.
The bookies were struggling to separate the two sides but gave Warrington a two-point handicap on the coupon, making them slight favourites for the win.
Both sides will figure in the play-offs but tonights game would give us some indication of who was more likely to be at Old Trafford in 2021.
Warrington had an early lucky escape when they managed to ground a bouncing ball which rebounded off a post pad, just before a Wigan hand grounded it.
It took fourteen minutes for the Saints attack to finally break down a robust Wolves defence as Kevin Naiqama took a Jack Welsby pass to go through the smallest of gaps in the defence to round by the corner flag. Lachlan Coote hit the far upright with his conversion attempt, Saints 4-0 ahead.
On nineteen he Saints fans found themselves three on one against the Warrington defence with Lewis Dodd on hand to take the inside pass from Mark Percival for a twenty-metre sprint to the line. Coote added the conversion for 10-0, Saints looking in full control.
Just after the half hour the Wolves got into their stride with Ben Currie taking a George Williams pass to go thirty metres and evade a last-ditch ankle tap to go over. Stefan Ratchford added the conversion, the margin back to four points.
A brilliant Wolves try on thirty-six levelled the scores. The ball was kicked forward by Josh Thewlis and collected by Williams to go outside the last Saints defender and score in the corner. Ratchford added the conversion from wide to give the home side a two-point lead with two minutes of the half remaining.
After Coote spilled a high kick Saints conceded a penalty as they scrambled to cover and Ratchford kicked the two-point penalty for a 14-10 interval lead after what had been an enthralling first half.
On forty-six the lead was wiped out after Mark Percival pushed away two attempted tackles from the chasing Wolves defenders as he went in from sixty metres to score under the sticks. Coote added the two points which edged Saints back into a two-point lead.
After a brief halt in proceedings due to a fire alarm, Saints scored their fourth try of the night with James Bentley collecting a Welsby kick which took a wicked bounce and straight into the second rowers’ hands for a walk-in try. Coote added the conversion for 22-14.
After a high tackle from Sione Mata’utia, Ratchford opted to take a penalty but slid it wide of the uprights.
A high tackle on Coote by Tom Lineham saw the Wolves centre yellow carded on seventy-four, the twelve men now out of the contest with six minutes remaining and an eight-point deficit.
A ball steal under the shadow of the uprights gave Coote another two points from under the sticks.
In the dying seconds another brawl broke out, punctuated by the final hooter with Gareth Widdop and Bentley sin-binned after the final hooter had sounded.
There was very little to choose between the two sides in the first half, Saints racing into a lead before being pegged back, and then overtaken by the Wolves. But the second half was all Saints as they marched on to another win and re-established themselves as favourites for Old Trafford and a likely showdown with the Catalans Dragons. The meeting between the two in Newcastle next weekend looks like it will be an interesting encounter.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford (3G), Lineham (SB on 74), Mamo, King, Thewlis, Williams (T), Widdop (SB on 80), Hill, Clark D, Philbin, Currie (T), Hughes, Clark J. Subs: Longstaff, Walker, Mulhern, Akauola.
St Helens: Coote (4G), Makinson, Naiqama (T), Percival (T), Grace, Welsby, Dodd (T), Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Mata’utia, Bentley (T, SB on 80), Knowles. Subs: McCarthy-Scarscrook, Paasi, Batchelor, Wingfield.
Referee: Liam Moore.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-8, 0-10, 4-10, 6-10, 10-10, 12-10, 14-10 : HT : 14-14, 14-16, 14-20, 14-22, (SB), 14-24, (SB), (SB) : FT.