First of all, I think you have to credit Saints
for the way they played yesterday. They had an inexperienced half
back combination which together a weak subs bench was always going
to make it tough for them, especially having lost two players
injured during the contest. In the end I think that told of them.
But to make a legend you have to get the win in that adversity,
just like we did on that famous Good Friday in 2003.
Now then I mentioned in my Match Preview that
James Graham would struggle to do 80 minutes in hot weather and
that proved to be the case. He is a class act no doubt about it and
the bottom line was that Saints lost the game when he was off the
I also mentioned the that Saints are misers at
being penalised and the fact we received just 1 penalty all game
was testament to that. In fact in two games now this season they
combined penalty count is 15-4 to St Helens and yet they haven't
managed to win either game. Granted they came mightily close twice
but I'd suggest that if it was the other way round we would have
put two, probably comfortable, wins on the board? Either way,
to get a win and a draw with hardly any penalties to help us, and
against this apparently huge and lethal pack that Saints fans keep
telling me they have, I think reflects well on us.
Early on in the contest, the pace of the game
was unbelievable. Their wasn't really much being given right up the
middle very early on in the game until Graham's total annihilation
of Jeff Lima in the 7th minute. It was a big early marker that I
feel mentally more than anything fired Saints towards their 10-0
It certainly played a big part in their first
try because from that big hit Saints got to pressure the Wigan line
for the first time. They got a cheap knock on decision against Josh
Charnley, then forced a drop out and although Wigan survived three
minutes of pressure, it eventually told a couple of minutes later.
From a tap 20 they plugged and plugged then
found the half break. Sia Soliola made it and hit Gary Wheeler with
a superb offload. Pat Richards missed the tackle and a full break
was on. Wheeler did very well to ensure he drew in Sam Tomkins
before offloading to send Michael Shenton clear over for the try.
Jamie Foster couldn't convert - 4-0 Saints after 13 minutes.
Saints' at this point always looked more likely
to score than Wigan and the second try came on 26 minutes. James
Roby made the half break this time and his wild offload fortunate
bounced for Jonny Lomax to hit at pace. That bit of luck meant
Wigan's defence was all at sea and they swung the ball left to send
Foster over for the try. He then hit a sweet touchline conversion
to make it 10-0.
Now whilst I do think Graham leaving the field
around this point in the contest played it's part in the end
result, it was also the fact that Wigan brought on Brett Finch.
That meant Leuluai was switched to hooker and Mike McIlorum left
Now many are pointing the finger at McIlorum and
I'm not necessarily against the argument that we looked better when
he was off the field but I suggest it could have been because we
got Leuluai away from the half back role. He was putting in some
garbage kicks which were putting no pressure what so ever on Saints
and I think our kicking game improved all round after Leuluai
shifted. Not saying Finch made an impact, he's really still
struggling to find rhythm isn't he, but I will continue to argue
that Tommy is a hooker and not a half back and should stick there!
I also take the argument made to me on twitter
that Sam Tomkins is wasted at full back. I agree totally and long
term I think he should be in the halves, but like I said I'm less
concerned about that with Paul Deacon in the team because I
seriously don't think we have a viable alternative full back at the
moment. I think Sam should have gone to stand off when we were
really struggling last month but I think we should see how it goes
in the next few weeks. The fixture list hopefully opens up for us
now with easier games on paper.
Anyway inside ten minutes before half time and I
think if Saints had got the next try we would have suffered a
long drawn out defeat like against Warrington but thankfully it was
Wigan that claimed it. Sam Tomkins did all the ground work by
running from left to right with no Saints player touching him. His
long pass found brother Joel and although he threw a forward pass
it wasn't spotted and you take your luck with Josh Charnley
crashing over in the right corner just 3 minutes before half time.
Although it was unconverted by Pat, 10-4 down at the break probably
flattered Wigan slightly.
I have to say in the past I think Michael
Maguire's half time team talks when the team has been losing really
haven't made any impact what so ever, but in this game the half
time certainly worked because Wigan came out on fire.
Their was an early crucial period though after
Saints kicked a 40/20 in the first minute of the half. A try would
have been a killer blow but Wigan just about survived.
Five minutes into the half Wigan levelled the
scores and it was a build up of pressure which was created by two
excellent kicks that had Saints well pinned back. An error
eventually came, with Sean Magennis knocking on in his own half,
and Wigan punished. Pretty similar to the Foster try earlier. Same
corner of the pitch, quick hands left and Pat Richards just plonked
it down. Then he hit a sweet conversion of his own score to make it
Then four minutes later Wigan took the lead for
the first time. Again it was a good last tackle kick and chase that
pinned Saints way back in their own half and when Wigan got the
ball back, Ryan Hoffman made a break through the missed tackles of
Ade Gardner and Michael Shenton. It got him away down the left wing
but support was lacking so he had to take the tackle. Saints
defence never reset and swinging right Joel Tomkins' beautiful
offload sent Charnley over for his second. I'm liking the signs of
Joel playing at centre. He's no Martin Gleeson yet but he's doing
some good stuff out there for me. Another touchline conversion from
Pat made it 16-10 after 51 minutes.
Four minutes later again and the third try of
the half came. James Graham was thrown back on but he couldn't stop
a break down the left from George Carmont. Great pass again to find
Pat and although he juggled it, the ball stuck and he put it down.
A third superb touchline conversion made it 22-10.
Famous words from me as I remember saying "they
won't come back from this". In fairness it didn't look like they
could. Wigan were well on top and Saints looked totally dead from
their efforts. They needed luck to launch their fightback and it
came on 63 minutes. Joel Tomkins offload hit Paul Deacon in the
face and referee Richard Silverwood blows a knock on. Terrible call
that could have cost us the game but it was a stupid offload from
Joel anyway. Not needed when we had the game in our control.
Soon after the scrum, great hands saw Jamie
Foster score a great try in the left corner, then hit a sweet
conversion to make it 22-16. 14 minutes left it was game on again
and soon after Tom Makinson scored close to the posts to level the
game up at 22-22. In four minutes Wigan had gone from full control
to oh bloody hell here we go again.
The game kind of stopped dead for the next few
minutes. I recall a woeful drop goal attempt from Finch. But on 73
minutes Saints got a massive penalty when George Carmont was ruled
offside. It was close to the line and Foster wasted no time in
going for two. He kicked it and with 6 minutes left they led 24-22.
All over the terraces I reckon most Wigan fans
like me were cursing them for letting us down yet at home yet again
but what was very admirable on the pitch at this point was the lack
of panic. The remaining time was all Wigan after George Carmont's
break down the left set up the territory. He found Pat but although
his kick came to nothing a brilliant tackle from Carmont bundled
Shenton into touch and gave Wigan a big scrum ten metres out. They
didn't score from it and Saints did get the ball back but they were
well pinned back again and that put massive pressure on them that
they have shown already they can't handle.
It was inside two minutes now and Wigan managed
to force a drop out with Gardner tackled in goal. Still the lack of
panic was superb and that was rewarded with 56 seconds to go. Paul
Deacon, the most experienced man of the field, sent Liam Farrell,
the Ginger Pearl, over for the match winning score. Oh that was a
sweet moment, getting them back for Tommy Martyn doing that to us
back in 2000! The conversion didn't matter but Pat kicked it anyway
to seal a sweet, sweet 28-24 win. Happy Days!