Double-chasing St Helens
came from 12-0 down to secure a draw in their last match of the regular season and clinch top spot in the engage
Super League for a fourth year in a row.
A below-par Saints went
in front for the first time with Matt Gidley's second try in the
56th minute but, in a thrilling finale, Wigan winger Pat Richards
levelled the scores with a long-range penalty 10 minutes from the
A draw brought St Helens' 21-match winning run to an end but
the point was enough to enable them to retain the League leaders'
trophy which was presented to captain Keiron Cunningham at the end
of an enthralling match.
Richards, in fact, had a chance to win the game for the
visitors but his late drop goal attempt sailed wide of the posts.
However, the Warriors will be delighted not only to end their
dismal run at the hands of their neighbours but to keep alive
their hopes of a home tie in the play-offs.
Wigan had been in sight of their first win at Knowsley Road for
five years after taking advantage of the sin-binning of St Helens
prop James Graham to score two tries in his absence.
But they could not sustain their challenge as Saints recovered
from their first-half slumbers to dominate the second period.
Without influential England stand-off Leon Pryce, who rested a
calf injury, Saints looked to be suffering a hangover from their
Challenge Cup triumph as they struggled for cohesion in difficult,
wet conditions which were a far cry from the searing heat of
Wigan made the better start and forced three goal-line
drop-outs in the first 12 minutes.
They twice opted to run the ball after being awarded penalties
in front of the St Helens posts but the home defence held firm and
Saints had the first scoring opportunity when winger Francis Meli
broke out of defence only to be denied by a last-ditch tackle from
winger Pat Richards.
When Saints attacked, George Carmont and Thomas Leuluai twice
pulled off timely interceptions and it was heading for a
point-less first half until a flare-up in the 18th minute changed
the complexion of the match.
Graham took exception to an off-the-ball challenge from Wigan
substitute Iafeta Paleaaesina and was sin-binned by referee Ashley
Klein for retaliation, even though Saints were given the penalty.
Wigan took full advantage of the extra man, with skipper Trent
Barrett sending Carmont over in the 25th minute to open the
scoring and then producing another sublime pass to get loose
forward Joel Tomkins over three minutes later.
Richards added both conversions but Saints pulled a try back
just before half-time when Gidley slid over the line and video
referee Ian Smith gave him the benefit of the doubt in awarding
Sean Long landed the touchline conversion to cut Wigan's lead
by half but Richards made it 14-6 with a 40-metre penalty within
two minutes of the re-start.
St Helens were still struggling to re-discover their form and,
when substitute Maurie Fa'asavalu reached the Wigan line, he was
held up on his back by energetic and hungry defenders.
But the Cup holders eventually found their rhythm in the 52nd
minute when snappy handling along the line gave Gidley the
opportunity to send winger Ade Gardner over for his 26th try of
the League campaign, his 29th in all games.
Long once more added the difficult goal to bring his side to
within two points at 14-12 but was off target for the first time
when Gidley took Kyle Eastmond's pass to slide over for his second
try which put Saints in front for the first time as the game
entered the final quarter.
But there was still plenty of drama to come, with Meli having a
try disallowed in the 67th minute and Richards levelling the
scores three minutes later with a second long-range penalty.