After enduring four miserable Easter clashes against St Helens
between 2006 and 2009, it has been nice to hit back with what now
proves to be four Good Friday victories in a row.
The only thing
surprising about this match was how close the final score made the
game look because Wigan totally dominated St Helens in the middle
of the park and on another day we could have easily have racked up
It shows that we are still not quite clicking in attack with so
many new faces in key positions, but the fact we are producing good
results without that should be seen as a huge positive.
I tweeted during the match that I felt Wigan were not at their
best and that was highlighted by the match facts. 16 Errors. Only
62% set completion. Yet we won this match at a canter. Probably
highlights how poor Saints were in truth.
Saints did of course have key men like Jonny Lomax and James
Roby out but you'll not convince me that Lance Hohaia would have
made much of a difference yesterday.
The bottom line was that we knew in the morning when the team
sheet showed a half back pairing of Paul Wellens and Jon Wilkin that
this game was won. That is pretty desperate stuff and it showed
throughout the entire 80 minutes. Wilkin did his best but the 33
year old Wellens looked totally out of place on a field filled with
One player who did ok for Saints was debutant Stuart Howarth,
who played his academy rugby here at Wigan between 2006 and 2010.
Was always a decent player here but never looked like he had the
class to make it for us. Sometimes it's not about class though and
you can have players who are "job men". By that I mean they just do
a good job without necessarily being top quality. I think he could be that type for Saints in the short
term. I wish him well, he was a good kid here.
The key stat in this match was the Clean Break that read 14-4 to
Wigan, of which it was 8-1 in the first half. Wigan continually
broke clear right up the gut of the St Helens defence and the first
one led to us taking the lead in the 8th Minute.
Matty Smith's beautifully timed pass to Darrell Goulding left
Wilkin mugged in defence but Tom Makinson in fairness did well at
full back to halt Goulding short. A quick play the ball however
caught him "not square" and from the penalty, good hands saw Pat
Richards score in the left corner. It always fills you with
confidence on these kind of occasions when Pat then adds the extras
from a touchline conversion, this one made it 6-0. Wigan could have
extended their lead on 16 minutes when Ben Flower broke up the
middle but unfortunately his pass went to a Saints player.
The visitors day of woe was highlighted early when Paul Wellens
had passed to his twin brother, a slug in the grass, when Ade
Gardner looked to have space. They did get a big chance from that
Flower error when Mark Percival made a half break, but his pass to
the supporting Tom Makinson went to ground.
Errors continued for
Saints with both Jon Wilkin and Willie Manu knocking on and Wigan
punished on 23 minutes. Matty Smith's pass got Jack Hughes away on
half way and he had support of Sam Tomkins to score near the posts.
Pat converted for 12-0.
That lead should have been extended on
the next set. Smith broke up the gut but sadly ran away from the
three man support on the right towards the left where support was
lacking. Try went begging for sure!
Saints had barely attacked
but managed to force two drop outs in a row around the half hour
mark before Wigan showed their class by first seeing off that
pressure, then converting it for a try themselves.
What a try it
was as well. Last Tackle for Saints, at our end, the kick went in
and landed in the hands of Charnley who produced 13 seconds of
sheer joy. He picked the ball up 2 metres from the line and race
diagonally from right of the posts towards the left wing. Francis
Meli was the only chaser but his effort was always in vain, Josh
had too much pace and he went all the way to make it 18-0 after Pat
The game then seemed to be drifting towards half time
but we had another big opportunity when Charnley half broke down
the right and had Hughes in support for a walk in try. A poor knock
on which left Saints still in the contest. They were on the ropes
at 18-0 but relieved because it could, and probably should, have
Into the second half and Saints had a good dig early
and scored after four minutes through Paul Clough. Clough's try was
given by video referee Phil Bentham, despite the possibility of
Farrell having his hand under the ball, thus stopping it from being
grounded. Benefit of doubt to the attacker though is what should be
given and the try was awarded. Easy conversion for Mark Percival
made it 18-6.
In years gone by, Wigan might have flapped in this
situation but it was clear as day during this match that Saints
didn't have any clean breaks in them. So unless Wigan invited them
towards the try line for barge over tries, they weren't going to be
a consitent threat.
We had plenty in the tank up the other end
also. On 55 minutes and with Wellens down hurt in back play, Blake
Green sent Dom Crosby, superb on the day, bursting up the middle of
the Saints defence to score from 30 metres out. Have to note the
footwork from Green there. A couple of jinking steps left two or
three defenders flat footed and created the space for Dom to score.
After Pat converted it was 24-6 with 25 minutes left but Wigan were
not clever on the restart. Ben Flower got in Sam Tomkins way and
forced a knock on. Smith was lucky not to be penalised for kicking
the ball dead offside. Sky's commentators screamed for a yellow
card but I remember a Bradford player doing exactly that during the
2007 play off come back and that didn't result in a yellow either.
Nor did Sky's commentators scream for a yellow back then! To be
fair it should have been a yellow for a professional foul but Sky's
cheerleading for players to be sent from the field is pretty poor
Anyway that error was converted into a soft try for Francis Meli
but Percival's missed conversion left the score at 24-10.
when Saints got a rare break on 68 minutes to make it 24-16, I
still never felt this result was under threat. Tom Makinson
finished Meli's break down the left and Percival converted, but you
just couldn't see Saints scoring twice.
They never got momentum anyway because within three minutes
Wigan had won the game for a second, or perhaps third, time when
Pat finished beautifully in the left corner despite a good
defensive effort from the last defender. His conversion missed but
at 28-16 the game was won. You cannot beat a happy Good Friday!