Perhaps that was revenge 54 years in the making for St Helens? In
the 1959-1960 season Saints had romped through the regular season
winning 34 of 38 matches, finishing thirteen points clear of Wigan
and beating them home and away in doing so.
The sides went on to meet in a
play off semi final at Knowsley Road, ironically played on a
Saturday Evening, and, in a match marred by send offs to both
Saints' Alex Murphy and Wigan's Mick Sullivan, Wigan won 19-9 and
Saints were declared in one newspaper as "the champions that never
It won't matter to Saints fans how they won it but for me
"champions that never were" is how I'll remember this Grand Final.
No point vilifying Ben Flower because he'll feel bad enough. He
certainly copped an elbow on the jaw from Lance Hohaia but I think
we all understand that he took his reaction too far. Already out cold or not, to
hit a man who is laid down on the floor is poor. You couldn't
argue with the red card. An action you just cannot defend.
Must admit at the time I hadn't noticed the elbow to the jaw. In hindsight
you could argue Hohaia could have been sent off as well but
the fact Flower did what he did took the focus totally away from
that. It doesn't matter what's occurred, it's going to be hard for
any official to send off a player who's just been sparked out. Overall I thought the officials had a fantastic game.
I'm in no doubt that one incident cost us the game. The amount
of overlaps we made with a man short was ridiculous but the extra
man just allowed Saints enough scramble to avoid us punishing them.
I think we would have punished them severely out wide with thirteen
men, particularly on the wing defended by Adam Swift.
I thought Saints were pretty poor in attack considering the
extra man. Fair enough the loss of a half back was a blow to their
attacking structure but they barely went wide all game and never
really cut us up at any stage. They were
fortunate for the play of James Roby. For me, he was the only
attacking threat they had and three or four sparks out of dummy
half during the game proved enough for them to get the job done.
The loss of Mike McIlorum was really felt in that regard. I
think it was the right call to sit him out with a smashed eye
socket but his replacement Sam Powell registered just ten metres
during the game. I've said on the radio during recent good wins
that it's clear we dropped in pace when Powell replaced McIlorum
and I don't care what anyone says, just ten metres from a hooker in
a final is being far too predictable. Basically he's passing every
time from marker and never scooting. Whether that is tactics or not
I don't know but in comparison George Williams made 68 metres in
much more limited game time. I wonder what might have been for
Wigan had he started?
The two missed goal kicks proved costly as well, particularly
the penalty goal shot that would of made it 8-8. We lost to Saints
at home in June on missed goal kicks and arguably did the same
here, regardless of the send off. Kicks are so vital and for that
one to not even go dead
for a twenty metre drop out was perhaps the game killer? It meant
that when Saints found a try on 68 minutes, we were always needing
two tries and that took the pressure right of Saints late in a
game. That's the small margin a quality goal kicker can bring you.
I might have questioned the small margins above but we can't
really complain about the overall effort of the sixteen that
remained. To play a man down for 78 minutes is an incredibly hard
job in any game, never mind a final. The spirit and desire shown
was fantastic and I'm immensely proud of that effort in difficult
The irony of this season for me is that our performances, in the
big games at least, this year were far, far better than last season
yet we won the double last year and have nothing at all to show
from this one.
So I'm certainly not doom and gloom. We were a send off away
from back to back titles, despite losing some immense talent from
our attack last off season in Sam Tomkins and Pat Richards. We
Wigan fans need to remember that. This is a young side that should
As for Saints. They did it tough this year and it doesn't matter
how you win it, their name is on the trophy at the end of the day.
I'd have certainly have taken any Grand Final win like that between
2000 and 2009.
I'm a Wigan fan who counts himself lucky that I've got to see my
town play in numerous finals constantly over the years and being in
so many means your bound to lose some of them. That's the way I
look at it. Fans of other clubs are not so lucky and that's why
I'm not going to get too upset about a loss like this. I really
don't mind them enjoying their bouquet of flowers for once, because I know
we will be back!!!