St Helens showed all their
champion qualities to snatch a dramatic victory and end the unbeaten home
record of arch-rivals Wigan.
A controversial try from stand-off Tommy
Martyn four minutes from the end of a remarkable Super League clash denied
Wigan the chance to return to the top of the table and took Saints level
with new leaders Bradford.
St Helens had trailed from the fourth minute of an epic clash and
capped an astonishing comeback with Martyn's hat-trick try four minutes
from the end.
Martyn lost the ball as he jinked his way through for the killer try
but the video referee, who kept the 17,428 JJB Stadium record crowd on
tenterhooks as he agonised over his decision, ruled the ball had been
dislodged by defender Lee Gilmour.
That try levelled the scores and former Wigan player Sean Long kicked
his fifth goal from six attempts to secure a famous victory.
So a week after ending Bradford's unbeaten home record, the Warriors
were forced to relinquish their 100% record at the JJB Stadium - but coach
Frank Endacott must be wondering just how his side lost this all-action
Wigan, in buoyant mood after their magnificent win at Odsal, played
some breathtaking attacking rugby to race into a 16-0 lead after only 11
But Saints regrouped and came up with some scintillating play of their
own to cut the gap to just four points by half-time and would have been
level but for a disallowed try by winger Anthony Sullivan two minutes
before the break.
Sullivan failed to ground the ball as he crossed the line but he went
on to make amends by scoring a sensational length-of-the-field try to set
up the dramatic finish.
The warning signs appeared for St Helens as early as the second minute
when skipper Andy Farrell, once more dictating at will from the stand-off
position, got loose forward Chris Chester over but the try was disallowed
for a forward pass.
The floodgates were opened in typical fashion by Farrell, who brushed
aside a challenge from captain Chris Joynt to split the Saints defence
wide open and magnificent support play by Willie Peters, Terry Newton and
Jason Robinson enabled centre Steve Renouf to score the opening try.
Farrell, an immensely influential figure for the Warriors, was also
closely involved in his side's next two tries.
Teenage winger David Hodgson, who scored a try on his first senior
appearance earlier this season, marked his full debut with another
touchdown courtesy of Gary Connolly's inside pass and prop Neil Cowie,
deceptively light on his feet, then produced some neat footwork to send
Saints, hammered 44-6 by Melbourne at the JJB Stadium six months ago,
must have feared another humiliation when Farrell kicked his second
conversion to make it 16-0.
But centre Sean Hoppe launched the comeback on 22 minutes when he
brushed aside three would-be tacklers to score a solo try.
Long kicked the conversion and put over a penalty shortly afterwards
after being obstructed while chasing his own kick.
And the game was blown wide open four minutes later when Martyn charged
down a kick from Farrell on the first tackle and hacked on a second time
during a 60-metre chase to the line before beating full-back Kris
Radlinski to the vital touch.
Long's third goal made it 16-14 and although Farrell put over a penalty
after Saints substitute Vila Matautia was pulled up for interference at a
play-the-ball, Saints ought to have drawn level when Sullivan successfully
chased Long's speculative kick to the corner only to lose control of the
Wigan edged further in front with another penalty from Farrell
following an indiscretion by Matautia and a fourth drop goal of the season
Tough guy Matautia, who left Chester crumbled in a heap during a
first-half charge, appeared to fend off Renouf's attempted tackle with an
elbow to the head of his opponent and was placed on report by referee
In a game of high-class defence as well as brilliant attacking play,
full-backs Paul Wellens and Radlinski both came to their teams' rescue
with try-saving tackles on Renouf and Long respectively.
However, Wigan were unable to regroup quickly enough from Long's foray
and Martyn dummied his way over for his second try on 51 minutes and
Long's fourth goal brought his side to within a point to leave the match
balanced on a knife-edge.
When Renouf sliced through the Saints defence for his second try on the
hour the game looked over, but Sullivan's length-of-the-field try 13
minutes from the end provided another turning point.
Martyn was simply trying to clear his line when he picked up Farrell's
grubber kick by his own posts but found himself in oceans of space and the
supporting Sullivan held off Robinson in a thrilling sprint to the line.
Hodgson, 18, then blotted his copybook when he failed to take Martyn's
kick and Saints used possession from the resultant scrum to set up the