Wigan delivered a massive
psychological blow to the reigning Super League champions with a masterly
performance in front of a 16,000 crowd to retain top spot at the end of
the regular season.
The Warriors avenged two earlier defeats at the
hands of their arch rivals in an anti-climactic showdown to secure the
easier route to the Grand Final at Old Trafford on October 14.
While Wigan earned themselves a weekend off, Saints - shell-shocked by
a first-half blitz that left them trailing 24-0 - must now pick themselves
up to face third-placed Bradford Bulls in the qualifying play-off at
Knowsley Road next Friday.
And victory in that match will set up a fourth derby of the season,
only this time at the JJB Stadium, a worrying prospect for Ian Millward's
men on the evidence of tonight's one-sided encounter.
Scrum-half Willie Peters, who will leave Wigan for St George Illawarra
at the end of the season, led the home side a merry dance, scoring two of
the Warriors' first three tries as the visitors raced into a 22-0 lead
after less than half-an-hour.
Saints managed to overturn a 16-0 deficit in their thrilling triumph at
the JJB Stadium in July, but there was no way back after Wigan's early
Prop Neil Cowie demonstrated the power of the Warriors pack when he
forced his way over for the first try after only four minutes and Peters
grabbed his first 10 minutes later after Sean Long had lost the ball over
the line in Kris Radlinski's tackle.
Video referee Steve Presley was called on to rule on both tries and he
was in action for a third time when St Helens winger Steve Hall - drafted
in as a late replacement for the unfit Anthony Sullivan - failed to
diffuse an Andy Farrell 'bomb' and Brett Dallas pounced on the loose ball
Dallas - who scored 17 tries in his first 20 matches for the club - has
spent the last 11 weeks recovering from a broken jaw, but wasted little
time getting back in the scoring groove.
With Peters registering a second try, courtesy of a superb break by
hooker Terry Newton, and Farrell kicking four goals, the Warriors had the
game in the bag at half-time.
Little went right for Saints, with strike centres Paul Newlove and
Kevin Iro kept under tight control, and when second rower Sonny Nickle
managed to cross the Wigan line, the try was disallowed for obstruction.
Saints also suffered a blow when hooker Keiron Cunningham was
sin-binned, along with Wigan prop Tony Mestrov, following an outbreak of
fisticuffs just before the interval.
Wigan put their seal on an emphatic win with a wonderful 60-metre try
four minutes after the re-start.
Farrell, invariably the architect of the bulk of the Warriors'
attacking moves, put Radlinski through a gap in his own half and Peters
and Newton provided excellent support for Steve Renouf to finish the move
Saints were rapidly becoming dispirited and their defence showed a
distinct lack of commitment when Wigan substitute Brady Malam carved out
an opening for Jason Robinson to score the Warriors' sixth try.
At least the home side avoided a first whitewash of the season when
skipper Chris Joynt forced his way over for a consolation try after Sean
Long had been held short.
But Wigan had the final say in injury time when centre Gary Connolly
intercepted Long's pass to cross for an easy try, to which Farrell added
his seventh goal.