I said in my match preview that I was confident going into this one
and so I was proved right. I talked about how many were getting a
little bit carried away with Saints efforts in the past fortnight
and this result justified it for me.
Ok they might well point to the injury to Jonny Lomax after 15
minutes but to be honest, I don't think that would have made any
difference to the end result. Why? Because a Wigan pack, that was
minus Lee Mossop, Liam Farrell, Ben Flower, Eric Lauaki and Sean
O'Loughlin, totally dominated St Helens in that game. Total
Domination! 32 minutes into the game and a stat pops up on the Sky
coverage which reads "play the balls in opp half" and its Saints 6
Wigan 38. That highlights how much we dominated.
Reality was Saints scored their first try off our error and the
second came off numerous penalties and that was the only way they
looked like scoring. They continue to be a paceless team with very
little threat from deep and that really is why they have been
failing when it's come to the crunch games in recent years and why
I can't see that changing. They relied heavily on James Graham and
rely heavily now on James Roby. Wigan had Roby well and truly
controlled in this contest and no one else really stood up to the
plate to cover that.
For us, even Michael Maguire we used to rely heavily on the
backs to win games, but not any more. This is an all dominating
pack under Shaun Wane. That performance should have proved it to
you. All those absences up front but it didn't matter. We have so
much depth in the pack its untrue. "Henderson" Gil Dudson came in
for a debut and had a great game.
Having said all that, it was important that we had all our backs
fit. That will probably end up being the key to our season, if we
can keep our backs fit we have a cracking chance to reclaim the
title we won in 2010 because the pack is more than good enough.
Personally, I had actually planned a quiet ish pre match so I
could stay out for the day - but it didn't quite work out. Five
pints by kick off saw me only getting on the ground right on kick
off and the terrace was so packed I had to stand in the aisle. I
actually quite liked this new ground. It was certainly different
from the old Knowsley Road but the atmosphere was fantastic.
With Lee Mossop, Liam Farrell and Ben Flower dropping out from
the Salford match, Jeff Lima and Chris Tuson were promoted to start
with Tom Spencer, Jack Hughes and Gil Dudson coming onto the bench.
Pat Richards, despite not being fully fit and unable to goal kick,
returned on the left wing also in place of Matty Russell. Saints
had Paul Wellens and Anthony Laffranchi suspended following their
clash with Warrington last weekend.
First chance of the game fell to Wigan, when young full back Tom
Makinson fumbled a grubber in the first minute, but we failed to
take advantage with Brett Finch soon making the only error he would
make all afternoon.
Wigan had slightly the better territory early but didn't really
test the try line. It was still a bitter pill though when Saints
took the lead on 10 minutes from a Sam Tomkins error. Lance Hohaia
put a kick in towards the left corner which Sam collected but he
fumbled under a tackle from Josh Jones. Hohaia scooped up and
Francis Meli touched down in the corner. Credit here to Josh
Charnley who tried his best to stop that one but with new rules
deeming the corner flag defunct, it was hard for him to do anything
else than what he did. Jonny Lomax tried to convert off the
touchline but failed.
It was then a rough 17th minute for Saints in which Wigan got
over for their first score of the day. Hohaia threw a pass to a
worm in the turf and Harrison Hansen scooped on the loose ball to
give us possession thirty metres out. It was at this point that
Lomax was seen leaving the field and in the same instant Leuluai
and Sam combined to send Darrell "Fuzzy" Goulding over the line.
Pleased for him, he's a proper good job man for our team and
personally I think he's looking far more an effective centre than
Joel Tomkins ever was. Some were wary of Fuzzy being a centre
option but he's doing a good job I think. Charnley, with his
ridiculous quiff haircut, was on goal kicking and slotted that one
over for a 6-4 Wigan lead.
With no backs on the bench, Saints had to switch Jon Wilkin to
half back and he's about as useful there as a priest in Saudi
Arabia. So it proved, because Wigan began to dominate the territory
even more now with constant pressure on the Saints line. Pat
Richards went close on 22 minutes but his foot was just on the
touchline before he could ground the ball. Looked a knock on anyway
It was not long after that chance that Pat departed the match
himself and didn't return. His departure meant Jack Hughes came in
a right centre with Goulding switching across to cover on the left
wing. I suspect Hughes was on the bench to be interchanged with the
back row but it probably strengthened us really to see him go in at
centre instead of having a half fit Pat. Two reasons for that. One,
like I said Saints have very little threat out wide and two, both
Hansen and Hock in the back row were playing like beasts!
The no try for Pat really didn't matter because Wigan scored
their second try three minutes later following a knock on from
Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook. A fourth tackle offside penalty followed
and soon after Finch sent Carmont over. Took some scoring that but
Carmont had enough to reach over. Charnley converted for a 12-4
Now I've got to be honest, after that I never felt this result
was in doubt. Even when Saints got back to 12-10 early second half.
I can't recall a more comfortable afternoon at Saints away for me.
We were in total control in the pack and the reality was that the
only match winner for St Helens would have been Phil Bentham.
12-4 though wasn't really a true reflection for our pack
dominance and a Jack Hughes effort on 39 minutes would have been
the perfect end to the half for us, but I think the video ref got
it right in saying he didn't ground the ball. Close but no cigar as
In the second half and Saints had a big ten minutes off the back
of some poor Wigan discipline. We hadn't conceded penalty in the
first 31 minutes, in which I mentioned earlier that Saints had just
6 play the balls in our half during that time, but in twenty
minutes either side of the break we had conceded 7 penalties and
this really coincided with Saints best spell of the game. The
pressure had to tell and they scored a really soft effort on 51
minutes with Sia Soliola crashing over. Tom Makinson's conversion
making it 12-10 to Wigan.
Saints continued to rally and who knows had they scored here the
game might have been different but like I said, I never felt we
were short of having enough to win. Possession was mightily in
Saints favour in this part of the game and we showed our class by
soaking it all up and then going up the other end of the field and
Luck for Gareth Hock in the build up as he was awarded a penalty
after Josh Perry slapped him, when really he should have been
pulled up for moving off the mark himself, but his offload to send
Sam in off the back of that penalty was all class. Sam danced under
the sticks and Charnley's conversion made it 18-10.
After that this game was never, ever in doubt. Saints put no
pressure on us really and Wigan cruised home in the final twenty
minutes. Our hard work and calm half back play was just controlling
the game. We were outdoing Saints for passion also.
Wigan still had to wrap up the result and it came in a spell on
72 minutes. Goulding broke clear down the left and had beaten
Michael Shenton for pace. Makinson came across from full back but
Fuzzy cleverly hacked inside towards the in goal. He looked an all
certain try scorer but Shenton clearly obstructed him. Now screams
of penalty try everywhere here and I think it should of been even
though Makinson was in the vicinity. I don't think the video
referee got it wrong though. The rule is that he has to be 100%
certain he could score. Ok Makinson was there but you how often are
you going to ever be 100% certain? It's th rule that is wrong for
me. I don't think anyone could really argue that Goulding was
deliberately taken out and deserved the try?
Anyway, the decision was NO TRY and instead we got a penalty ten
metres out and a sin binning for Shenton. The decision didn't
matter because we were in seconds later with Finch's lovely dummy
sending Hock over for a try that his match effort deserved. A lot
of fuss over him throwing the ball in the crowd at this point. For
me their is no need for it but it was just genuine passion for a
player who hasn't tasted victory in an away derby at St Helens
since he scored in a 28-4 win at Knowsley Road back in September
Charnley missed the kick, so Saints still had a sniff at 22-10
but it was never, ever on for them. Wigan wrapped up the result in
the 77th minute with Leuluai sending Jeff Lima over for the fourth
try of his Wigan career. Charnley converted to make it 28-10 and
complete a very sweet hatrick of easter derby victories for us
Cherry and Whites. Enduring the miserable easter derbies of 2006 to
2009 makes those three all the better! Let's hope we can back up
now against Wakefield on Monday!