In my match preview ahead of this game I was rambling on about how
Wigan needed to use this game as a launch pad to step up a gear
this season and how it would be the perfect start to convincing me
they could repeat last years title success.
Well only time will tell but they certainly seemed to have the
same line of thinking I did because what they produced was a
totally dominant performance against the enemy.
I also mentioned in my preview talked about how almost 25% of the metres
St Helens make are made by James Roby and James Graham alone and
how that could possibly flip into a negative for them because the
rest of their squad rely on them two far too much. I actually feel
very justified in those comments after this game because we
nullified Roby completely and Graham was out
powered by our pack I thought. The rest of this apparent all
singing, all dancing "dominanting
Saints pack" didn't really show up at all for me. Jeff Lima and Lee Mossop
were outstanding I thought and well backed up by Andy Coley and
Paul Prescott on the bench and the back rowers.
The biggest difference though came in the halves. I've talked
before about my disappointment in the lack of controlled kicking
game from Brett Finch but him and Paul Deacon produced big style in
this contest. They had Saints pinned back time and time again,
showing up their lack of pace and making them unbelievingly
desperate for penalties which hardly came. Our pair gave a lesson really to their opposite
numbers Lee Gaskell and Jonny Lomax but those two are still young
and should learn from that.
St Helens were perhaps guilty early on of being a bit negative.
It's not like them but a couple of times early in the game they
were happy to just find touch on the last tackle rather than
bombing towards either Sam Tomkins or Josh Charnley.
Sam Tomkins kick out on the full in the 7th minute went
unpunished and from that Wigan began to dominate because we were making the break or the half break whilst Saints
struggled to produce anything. The only route through for Saints
seemed to be targeting the wing defended by Josh Charnley
and Joel Tomkins but strangely they didn't really target that
Wigan's first real chance came in the 9th minute. Brett Finch and
George Carmont combined to get Pat Richards chalking the touch
line. Tom Makinson was doing well to bundle Pat into touch but he
offloaded superbly back to Carmont but sadly his pass went to
ground via both Finch and Thomas Leuluai. It would have been a
class try had that been scored!
First try though would come to Wigan in the 15th minute. A metre
out, Leuluai was at dummy half and he fired the pass into the bread
basket of Lee Mossop's beautifully timed charge at the line. He
left Roby and god's gift to over achievement (Jon Wilkin) clutching at straws as he crashed in for his
second try of the season close to the posts. Easy conversion for
Pat made it 6-0.
Wigan's domination was highlighted in the fact that Saints never had one
attack on our line between the 13th and 33rd minute. During that time Wigan added two more tries.
First though came a penalty goal for Wigan in the 26th minute.
Good option to make it an 8 point lead after Chris Flannery was
penalised for holding down Sam Tomkins. Pat nailed it easily from
36 metres out.
I always think if you opt for a penalty goal though it's imperative that
you back it up with the next try of the contest and Wigan did that
with Pat himself scoring just two minutes later. A good kick from
Finch had seen Carmont and Deacon trap Makinson in goal for a drop
out. From that, on the last, Deacon put the bomb up towards the left
wing and Pat plucked it out the air to score easily. Makinson will
not be the last defender to be mugged in the air by Pat. He really
should request a © and a ™ on those efforts! He converted as well
to make it 14-0.
Wigan now had a roll on and scored again two more minutes later.
Richards put the bomb up this time but Saints didn't defend
it. It bounced up, Kyle Eastmond flapped at it and Josh Charnley
scooped up to offload and send Joel Tomkins under the sticks from
30 out. Video Referee Ian Smith checked it but the try was awarded.
Pat easily converted for a 20-0 lead with 8 minutes to go until half time.
Saints had a couple of opportunities late in the half but it was
very comfortable for Wigan. I knew sat there at the break, eating
the slightly melted mars bar our "Gladys" bought me, thinking that
Saints wern't going to overhaul this score unless they were given penalties, but I had a lingering
doubt about us consistently not being an 80 minute team this year.
Last week at Castleford proved how vital it is to claim the first
try after half time and unlike in that match, we got it this time!
It came in the 47th minute. Mike McIlorum's offload sent
Brett Finch charging at the line. He really should have been
stopped but he took Roby and Wellens over the line with him. Pat
converted for a 26-0 lead.
Saints were still struggling. They were desperate for a penalty
to help them out and in truth that was the only way they were ever
going to score. A rare penalty finally came to them on 57 minutes,
after McIlorum was penalised, and they took advantage of it with a
try from Tony Puletua from close range.
Joy at the restart as, bang in front of where I was sat, Wellens
and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook let the ball bounce dead from a drop
out. That joy was short lived though because Saints won an
obstruction penalty against Wigan and that allowed them to pump the
ball down field for another try. Good kick from Gaskell and
Makinson touched down for the score. Jamie Foster though, now back
on the field after leaving earlier with a head gash that required
20 stitches, missed the conversion. Still at 26-10 with 17 minutes
to go, and knowing how we collapsed late last week at Castleford,
it left us with a bit of sweat on.
But like I said, Saints were
devoid of clean breaks and needed penalties to help them up field,
and with none forthcoming, the clock just ticked away towards a
Wigan wrapped up the win with a try in the 76th
minute. Another good dab to the in goal by Finch ricocheted for
Jeff Lima to touch down and score the first try of his Wigan career
near the posts. Pat had an easy goal to maintain a 100% kick rate
for him on the night and cap off a 32-10 win.
At full time great noise from the Wigan fans, it was loud for
all to hear on Sky. Good scenes from the Wigan players as well.
Brett Finch was fist pumping as he celebrated with his Sky man of
the match champagne. Jeff Lima was loving it as well whilst Sam
Tomkins also received a sarcastic round of booing after the England
"fans" booing farce in the Exiles match last week.
post match as always in the Bowling Green up Wigan lane, although I
was mightily pissed off that the over running Live US Open Golf
delayed the replay of the game by 45 minutes!
So the win
takes us top of the table for now but more importantly it puts
pressure on our rivals. It makes Saints need a win at Warrington
next week to give themselves some belief they can win the trophy
this year. It makes Warrington needing to beat Hull KR away on
Sunday or they too will be desperate for victory against Saints on
Friday if they have aspirations for 1st place. It makes
Huddersfield v Catalan, and the Giants visit here next weekend,
even more important for them as well. Going to be nice to settle
back and see how they all get on before our game next Saturday