Rugby starved fans turned out in force to soak up some
They did not appear to mind both teams were missing half
a dozen of their top stars. It was rugby; fast and frenetic, tough and
uncompromising as usual and they lapped it up.
Wigan should have won at a canter but they appeared to
ease up in the final stages allowing Saints to rally towards the end and the
10 point margin keeps the £20,000 challenge alive. The two sides clash again
in the second leg at Knowsley Road on New Year's Day.
As Saints' coach Shaun McRae conceded: "The scoreline
flattered us. The way they started I thought the margin could have been 40
Centre Kris Radlinski's first-half hat-trick set up the
win that sent out a chilling off-season warning to the rest of Super League.
Wigan made light of missing eight internationals to
destroy the Super League champions with reserve half-back partnership Craig
Murdock and Sean Long showing they are going to be a force for the future.
Murdock's chip kick to the corner put Radlinski over for
his first try with just inches to spare. Saints replied as Australian
forward Derek McVey crossed over to complete a superb cross-field move, but
rampant Wigan punished the Saints and overcame ring-rustiness to build a
16-6 interval lead.
Long's kick to the corner produced a carbon-copy try for
Radlinski before the Wigan centre raced onto a Steve Barrow pass to complete
his try trio on the stroke of half-time.
The Warriors maintained their dominance after the break
with Kiwi full-back David 'Doc' Murray and substitute Lee Gilmore
celebrating tries on their debuts.
McVey's second touchdown provided a short relief for St
Helens, who were also missing four first-team regulars including Great
Britain scrum-half Bobbie Goulding.
But Wigan were not to be denied their Christmas cracker
and completed a six-try haul when winger Danny Ellison went over on the
overlap in the corner.
Scrum-half Lee Briers and stand-off Alan Hunte grabbed
late consolation touchdowns to put a little bit more respectability to the
scoreline for Saints.
Wigan coach Graeme West was happy with his side's
display. "Considering we had to make two late changes I was delighted with
the way the lads performed. It gave the youngsters the chance to gain some
Wigan's new trio of signings were on show but only Murray
impressed with strong running from full-back. He took the sponsors
man-of-the-match award but GB skipper Andy Farrell was the star of the show
with a top class performnace.