Normally I'd be devastated with
surrendering a late 16-0 lead to St Helens and
only get a point, but I'm quite content with this result because
the performance was their for all to see.
Especially when you consider we lost our stand off Paul Deacon for
most of the game, meaning we had an interchange option less, on top
of the absences of Pat Richards, Amos Roberts, Brett Finch and Stuart Fielden so I thought 16-16 and a match we should really have won was great effort. It says a lot that we can have those four players absent but still compete very well with one of our title rivals.
Do you think if Saints lost the equivalent, say Paul Wellens, Francis Meli, Leon Pryce and James Graham, then Kyle Eastmond came off the pitch 20 mins into the match that they'd compete with us? I don't think so!
Fair enough Josh Perry and Chris Flannery were also injured for
Saints but whatever five quality players you wish to swap for our
injured yesterday, I don't think Saints would be able to cope like
we did. It really highlighted our squad depth. Defensively we were outstanding
Also Wigan built up a 16-0 lead off the back of receiving just 1
penalty, that was our total in the first 65 minutes. Amazing!
Saints came back during a spell in which they got 5 penalties. I
think 4 came in a row in fairness but still, it says a lot!
First attack of the match
went to Saints in the 4th minute. They got a full set on our line
after Sean O'Loughlin was penalised for ball stealing. Although
Saints forced a drop out, Wigan withheld the pressure as Michael
Shenton knocked on whilst chiming at the line. Another penalty
minutes later gave more pressure to the Saints but Wigan hounded
Saints into a knock on again, this time Jonny Lomax the guilty man.
First attack for the champions came in the 10th minute and we
immediately got points on the board. George Carmont broke from half
way and found support from O'Loughlin. Although Sam Tomkins was
caught, quick play the ball got Wigan an overlap down the left.
Thomas Leuluai, O'Loughlin and Josh Charnley combined with the
final pass going back inside for Ryan Hoffman to score on his
debut. Paul Deacon converted to make it 6-0.
The game began to get bogged down in midfield but on 18 minutes
Wigan almost scored again after James Graham had knocked on. They
hit the left wing again, Josh Charnley went close but was just
about held up by Michael Shenton and Paul Wellens. Later in the
tackle count, a bomb to the right was well taken by Francis Meli
but he fumbled the ball backwards into the in goal and Saints had
to scramble the ball out of play for a drop out, which Wigan
On 21 minutes Saints hit Wigan
with more try line pressure after a "back to one" was rightly
awarded but our defence held firm yet again. Minutes later another
Saints attack saw a poor last tackle kick from Kyle Eastmond.
Yet more Saints pressure came on 26 minutes after Meli had
intercepted in the Wigan half. This got them inside our 20 metre
zone and Roby went close to scoring under the posts. Referee
Richard Silverwood asked the video ref to look for a try but Ian
Smith gave no try. Sam Tomkins brilliantly stopped Roby from
grounding with his foot underneath the football.
It turned into a double whammy for
Saints because Wigan went up the other end and scored a couple
minutes later. On the last Sam Tomkins put up a huge bomb up, the
defensively useless Meli and Paul Wellens both left the ball to
each other, it bounced and Harrison Hansen poached to score near
Now for whatever reason Hansen soiled
himself scoring that with a bit of diarrhoea I assume. He is shown
afterwards Live on Sky wiping his arse and handing a soiled rag to
the trainer. A certain Kris Radlinski did that once against
Bradford. It's a great story in his book! Anyway, Paul Deacon had
gone off moments before that try so Sam Tomkins took the conversion
to make it 12-0.
On Wigan's next attack another bomb,
this time to the right from Sam Tomkins, was shockingly flapped by
Gardner and it luckily bounced dead with both Charnley and Carmont
about to pounce on the loose ball for the try.
Seconds later a Saints kick up the other end created a Wigan error.
Sam Tomkins was out leaped by Gary Wheeler and the loose ball saw
Michael Shenton claim the try. But Ian Smith again ruled no try
with a knock on from Wheeler at the leap.
The clock was ticking to half time but an error from Darrell
Goulding almost gifted Roby a try. Luckily for Goulding Wigan
scrambled desperately to hold him up. Saints still had a full set
to hit at our line and despite poor last tackle kicks they got a
"back to one" to throw at us as well. But Wigan saw out 9 tackles
on the line with a James Graham error relieving the pressure.
Eventually the half time hooter game. Pretty even contest but Wigan
were just more clinical in attack.
First attack of the second half went
to St Helens after 6 minutes but Wheeler put in a poor kick on the
last tackle. A minute later, Wigan showed Saints how to kick. Sam
Tomkins penned Meli in the left corner and his pass to Wellens was
not advisable. Wellens was given trapped in goal, from which Wigan
claimed their third try.
ball left - Mike McIlorum, Leuluai, O'Loughlin and Liam Farrell all
combined before George Carmont went over in the corner. Super
passing, great angled running, excellent try! Sam Tomkins couldn't
convert so the lead was 16-0 with 30 minutes to go.
For the next 10 minutes, Wigan's
strong defence continued to keep St Helens at bay. Have to say
though, 53rd minute Jon Wilkin grassing up Jeff Lima for an
apparent "chicken wing" tackle. Wilkin complained to referee
Richard Silverwood and he put it on report. Now Lima may well be
guilty, we shall see, but I think it's poor that a player goes to
the referee and asks for an incident to be looked at. Let the RFL
review it themselves, they go through every second of every game
with a fine toothcomb anyway. What Wilkin did was football stuff in
my view. What next, rolling around on the floor feigning injury
like the overpaid tarts in the Premier League? I don't like it.
Seconds later from that incident,
Wigan went close to a fourth try. Sam Tomkins broke down the left
from half way, gave it to Josh Charnley who returned to ball back
to Sam but he was stopped just short of the line. Unfortunately Sam
lost the ball in the tackle which let Saints off the hook.
As the game wore on to the hour mark I felt Wigan were in total
control of the contest. My thoughts were solely on Wigan nilling
Saints. That would have been a huge statement of intent for the
season ahead and to be honest it was looking likely. Whilst Saints
had their chances, they were not ripping Wigan up either from deep
or close to the line.
In the last quarter of the match
though, Wigan's discipline was poor and once Saints claimed their
first try, they just got a roll on that was hard to stop. Our
Achilles heel last year was not killing off games we had won, and
we did it again here. It was during this period that we really
missed the experience of Deacon.
Their first try came on 63 minutes. A
Wigan knock on gave Saints a scrum ten metres out, from which a
half break from Roby saw him offload brilliantly to get Wikin over
the line. Jamie Foster converted to make it 16-6.
After that try Wigan started being ridiculous in conceding silly
penalties. Four pens in a row allowed Saints to claim another try.
Pretty soft or tired defence allowed Tony Puletua to score from
close range. He reached over and the conversion from Foster meant
it was 16-12 with 11 minutes to go.
Saints now had the sniff of victory
and on 72 minutes they were right on the Wigan line but Eastmond,
who generally had a poor game, threw a terrible pass straight into
Two minutes later Wigan
were attacking the Saints line. If we couldn't score all they
needed to do was get a repeat set but Thomas Leuluai put in a
really poor kick that stuck no pressure at all on Saints. Seconds
later Jonny Lomax broke clear with the support of Louis
McCarthy-Scarsbrook. All of a sudden Saints were in the Wigan
twenty metre zone and they scored! Last tackle Eastmond, Wikin and
Lomax combined to send Meli over the left corner.
Soft try really from Wigan, similar to
the late consolation Meli got in the Grand Final last season.
Difference was, it was no consolation this time, this was a
leveller that gave Foster a chance to convert Saints into an
unlikely lead. It was right on the touchline but the kick was
So 16-16 with three
minutes to go and in that time both sides had a drop goal attempt
to win the game. First Sam Tomkins for Wigan got a shot from 40
metres which was inches wide, then Eastmond right on the hooter
almost nicked the win for Saints. Oh boy that would have been cruel
but thankfully it missed and the spoils ended up shared.
So whilst the last 15 minutes was disappointing, I'm happy with the
overall performance. If Saints are to be our biggest rivals this
season then I'm happy we have the edge. On the evidence seen in
Cardiff we have far more options out wide, whilst Saints look too
heavily reliant on the forward pack. Their wing offerings were
pretty poor on this occasion, they didn't really cut us up once
during the match.
For us, well we have lessons to learn
from this game but best to learn them from drawing the game, than
losing it in defeat, which could easily have happened. I've no
doubt Michael Maguire and Shaun Wane would have been filthy about
letting that slip late in the game but Wigan will learn from it -
they proved that last year!