Well I thought Wigan got a
lesson in this match and despite leading for all but four minutes
of the second half I actually think the overall result was a fair
Wigan just didn't compose themselves both early and late in
the game and that is the lesson to take from it.
Saints tactics were clear - they would defend to death in the
first twenty minutes. They were quick off the line and tried to
smother us. That made it hard for us to get up field and helped
create good attacking positions for them.
But when Wigan did get into good attacking positions - the end
result was generally poor. For example when Wigan's first chance
came after 6 minutes. With the try line begging Cameron Phelps
fired to Amos Roberts on the right wing but he had shot too early,
the ball went behind him into touch for an incomplete set - a
pattern that would continue for Wigan.
The referee though got Saints into position to take the lead
after he penalised Joel Tomkins for moving off the mark. He
thought he wasn't tackled but the ref clearly called for him to
play the ball - twice! So in the 10th minute, from under the
sticks, Leon Pryce swung the ball wide to Paul Wellens who's neat
kick bounced very kindly for Matt Gidley to score. Very fortunate
bounce but as I always say in these reports you take your luck in
this game. Kyle Eastmond missed the conversion so the lead was
Wigan soon had a chance to respond after an interference
penalty against Tony Puletua but we again failed to complete the
set with Thomas Leuluai failing to take a good pass from Mark
On 17 minutes a correct "back to one" call from Ben Thaler got
Wigan in attacking position to which Sam Tomkins kick was forced
dead for a drop out. But from it - first tackle - Leuluai hit
Harrison Hansen with a short ball that he was never likely to take
with two defenders on him. Another wasted incomplete set.
Saints had more attacks than Wigan and our defence was awesome
but the difference was when Saints were on the last tackle it was
generally on our goal line. Although twice they wasted
opportunities by not realising it was the last. One of these saw
Keiron Cunningham trapped and with the referee just about to call
"held" Sam Tomkins gave his old knees a crumping. Despite his
moaning it was 100% legal. The ref hadn't called held so he is
entitled to tackle him!
On 24 minutes two interference penalties got Wigan attacking
again but for a fourth time in five attacks they failed to
complete the set - this time Leuluai threw the ball in touch. For
me the pass wasn't on again, not good from Tommy!
This is the lesson Wigan have to learn. Five attacks - Four
incomplete sets. That's why we lost this. You've got to get them
repeating! Dink in the in goal or something to put pressure on
them but for me we just kept letting them off the hook.
Saints meanwhile kept battering our line and OK we stood up to
the test well in defence but that left us deep in our half when
attacking. We in return just didn't push Saints back enough.
Moments after a two minute injury delay (Darrell Goulding left
the field injured with a dislocated shoulder) Wigan finally
reached a last tackle but again it was a poor end to the set which
saw Roberts put in a nothing kick into touch.
Half time was approaching and quite honestly I was chuffed with
4-0. I think Wigan had played terrible but much of this was to the
credit of St Helens who for me were just so much quicker off the
line in defence. You can argue all day whether it was a legal ten
metres or not from the referee but if you can get away with
Wigan though did finish the half strongly. My man of the match
Mark Flanagan (he worked his tits off) was sent racing away by a
short ball from Joel Tomkins. It was two on one and all he needed
to do was draw Flannery in and pass inside for Sam Tomkins to
touch down. But they completely bombed it. Summed up the way we'd
played this half. That would have been a perfect score with 90
seconds to go till half time.
Fortunately we got another chance because Thaler deemed Saints
had knocked on trying to recover the ball. At the scrum we had 70
seconds left and amazingly we completed a good set which forced a
drop out. Pressure building - its a simple game rugby league and
you know - that pressure would tell!
With time about to expire, Sam Tomkins put in a chip over the
top towards Francis Meli. He proved in Edinburgh what a defensive
liability he is and completely flapped at it again. Pretty dumb
rugby from Meli because time was up, meaning he just needed to
hack it dead but instead he tried to pick it up - fumbled - and
Sam pounced just before Paul Wellens for the try. Richards
converted to make it 6-4. Like I said I thought 4-0 flattered us
but 6-4 was a huge bonus.
We just proved though in 70 seconds what you need to do.
Complete your sets with a good kick into the in goal and pressure
will tell - but Wigan just didn't do it enough.
Anyway into the second half and we did play much better. We
started to get the kicks in, thus completing sets, which forced
Saints to come out of their own twenty. Most of the kicks were
deep ones in fairness but the one time we put in an excellent kick
into the Saints in goal, no player read it because for some reason
we did it on a second tackle. It was so mis-read Pryce couldn't
believe that he had an easy run out of the in goal area. He should
have been trapped.
It was definite midfield battle for most of the half but around
the 60-70 minute mark Wigan visibly started to find holes up the
middle with Saints starting to tire. Three big attacks on the
Saints line were seen out by a St Helens defensive effort which
matched the goal line efforts of Wigan first half.
Into the final ten minutes it was still a narrow 6-4 lead but
we were now looking to close the game out. Again though we were
not clever enough in executing it. On 70 minutes, thirty from the
Saints line, Joel Tomkins knocked on attempting a stupid offload.
Why was he doing it? These incomplete sets kept Saints alive and
inevitably they would punish.
From that mistake Saints forced a drop out and although the
repeat set came to nothing, it had put us on the back foot instead
of them, even though we did complete our next two sets with decent
last tackle kicks.
Five minutes was left on the clock now and Wigan did look like
they would hang on but in the end Saints did to us what we did to
them late first half.
Lovely kick from Eastmond saw Leuluai trapped in the in goal.
Now I'm watching the action again writing this with the help of
Sky+ but for me Leuluai was a bit dumb. He collected under the
sticks but didn't use the posts to get out of the in goal. Players
can't tackle through a post so why didn't he use the posts to his
advantage? Instead he ran wide of it and ended up trapped by James
Graham. I don't think that was clever play.
From the drop out Saints had good field position which saw
Eastmond spin out of the combined missed tackle of Leuluai and
Fielden and momentum saw him slide over under the posts from five
metres out. Easy conversion - 10-6 and game over.
Like I said I thought Saints deserved that simply because they
were just that bit more clever than us. We had a poor first half
and in the end it came back to haunt us.
Wigan still had one last chance but with everyone expecting a
kick towards the in goal - Leuluai sliced a kick that was behind
all of them. That completed a shocking night personally for him.
You can read this report back and most of Wigan's negative plays
came from him.
So in the end a cruel defeat but if we learn the lessons from
it, it'll do us good. Two games in a row against the top two and
we were four minutes away from maximum points. Our defence in both
matches was superb and I wonder if any Warrington fans seriously
believe that their side could put in a defensive effort like that?
If Wigan repeat that next week we'll be queuing up for Wembley
tickets a week Monday - simple as that!
Well done to Saints.
They won good despite injuries. But of course Wigan's injuries -
to Tim Smith, Sean O'Loughlin, Phil Bailey, Eamon O'Carroll plus
Gareth Hock's suspension and Darrell Goulding injured during the
match - were totally insignificant and irrelevant. To believe the
media reaction you'd think we were full strength!