Play Off Match Report: St Helens 26 Wigan 18
Posted by Bilko on October 02 2011 - 14:29
Wigan's season came to a close with defeat to St Helens in the Play Off Semi Final at Widnes.

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St Helens (3rd) v Wigan (2nd) - Engage Super League XVI Play Off Semi Final.
Saturday 1st October
2011. Kick Off 6:00pm at Stobart Stadium, Widnes.

Match Report

Well I think 35 consecutive weeks of rugby caught up with Wigan in this Semi Final at Widnes on Saturday. They simply did not have the gas to just go that extra yard towards the finishing post did they?

I actually think we should be proud of our efforts in this game. We were facing a Saints side that had taken two of the last five weeks off and had also rested Sia Soliola, James Roby, Tony Puletua and Jamie Foster when they've visited Harlequins. They were far fresher in the second half, and it showed, yet we weren't that far away at the end of the day. A 20-12 down we had a good 8 minute spell in which we battered their line and had we found a try in that spell, it could have been our day.

I'll just put it this way. Our most experienced prop forward Stuart Fielden missed pretty much the entire season. Do you think Saints would have been anywhere near the Grand Final had James Graham missed the entire season? Would they bollocks is the answer to that. Also losing Lee Mossop at the crunch end of the season was a massive blow for us as well I feel. He is my Wigan player of the season without a doubt. Add in the loss of Ben Cross and the stupid suspension to the village idiot Gareth Hock and we were just left a bit short in the pack at the end.

Still it was a brave effort and I sense most Wigan fans are very content to have got so far. We can only look back on the last 2 years with pride. We'd have snapped the hands off anyone offering a league and cup when Michael Maguire walked into the club two years back.  The biggest thing Maguire achieved though is that he got them playing to a consistently good standard week in, week out.

During Brian Noble's time here we won only 54% of matches. Despite that we were still close pretty close to both Grand and Cup Finals under him. Maguire though won 77.8% of his matches. That is the standard that Wigan need to continue to live up to now Maguire is moving on and a continuation of trophy lifting will be the reward if they do it!

In this particular match I think Wigan gave their all in the first 20 minutes but they just couldn't keep that standard up. We were tackling brilliantly and hammering Saints backwards more often than not. The effort was rewarded on the scoreboard with an early penalty goal from Pat Richards backed up with a try for Josh Charnley on 9 minutes. Good grubber kick from Thomas Leuluai was flapped at by Jamie Foster and Baby Josh took advantage to score in the corner. Pat couldn't convert though and I think in the long run this miss proved to be a crucial one.

Our early dominance really needed to have seen us build at least an 8-0 lead, and more probably a 12-0 with another try. Saints coach Royce Simmons said it all post match when he reflected that "most sides wouldn't have hung in" from the kind of onslaught Wigan were putting on them, but the fact they did was gold dust to them at the back end of the game.

Especially when Lee Gaskell scored to level the scores on 24 minutes. For me the try had been coming. They were starting to get a roll on and had blown a huge break up the middle just two minutes before the try actually came. It was no surprise then when Gaskell went over. He took advantage of a huge hole in the Wigan defensive line and it with it being close to the sticks, Foster had a routine conversion for 6-6. Couple of minutes later Foster then added a penalty goal for 8-6.

For me, it looked like Wigan had shot the bolt already but they managed to score a try against the run of play to retake the lead. Territory was gifted when Sio Soliola knocked on, on half way and after a drop out had been forced, Eamon O'Carroll rolled over to score from close range in what turned out to be his last Wigan appearance before he joins Hull next season. Pat converted to give Wigan a 12-8 lead that they would hold until half time.

Saints had forced two drop outs late in the first half so the signs still weren't good despite the fact we held the lead. I say it every week almost in these reports though, the first try after half time is always a big one and had we got it, it may well have been our night, sadly though it went the other way.

Luck deserted us at just the wrong moment. Carmont had fumbled the ball when being tackled on half way but referee Phil Bentham said "play on". Pat was racing into the corner for what would have been a massive try but touch judge Robert Hicks got involved and ruled Carmont had knocked on. I don't think we can really say it was wrong call but we really did need the luck there because less than a minute later Paul Wellens was over for Saints and what could have been an 18-8 Wigan lead was now a 14-12 Saints lead after Foster converted.

Soon after Foster added a second penalty goal for 16-12 but it when he went on to claim the games next try on 56 minutes that Wigan's title proved to have slipped away. A penalty helped Saints down field after Mike McIlorum was penalised for holding down Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Puletua sent Foster over but although he missed the conversion, an eight point lead was massive for them. I made the point in my match preview about how hard it is to chase down matches in the play offs.

Wigan never gave up though and for next 10 minutes they really gave their all to try and rescue the game. On 61 minutes Thomas Leuluai was a bugs dick away but Wellens and Roby held him up short. Soliola then ankle tapped Harrison Hansen when he looked a certain scorer under the posts. Those efforts were before Wigan had forced two consecutive drop outs but Saints managed to survive all that pressure.

Another spell of pressure followed on 65 minutes with Charnley going closed down the left wing but again Saints held us short. A good kick on the last was put in but unfortunately for Wigan it fell into Saints hands after hitting the post pad which had been removed under impact of players chasing the loose ball.

Wigan continued to pile on the pressure but a relieving penalty conceded by Ryan Hoffman on 68 minutes, for interference, ended our charge. If we'd have scored in that spell then who knows what might have happened, but it began to look like only Saints would score again, and so it proved.

They got the match clinching try on 74 minutes with a typical close range hookers try from James Roby. Foster converting to make it 26-12.

Wigan still never gave up. They got a lovely consolation from a scrum move. O'Loughlin put the kick in and Sam Tomkins won the race to touch it down but although Pat converted it was too little, too late. 26-18 with less then three minutes to go was just never on and the game petered out into the end result - a result which mirrored the one at the DW two weeks ago.

So the Grand Final ends up being 3rd v 5th. Doesn't seem right to me and I do feel that next week we'll be crowning the worst champions for a long, long time. Particularly if it's Leeds because at least Saints have beaten big teams in the play offs. A Leeds win though would really piss me off though. Fair enough they deservedly beat Warrington on Friday but it still grates me that Leeds had to play Hull in week 1 whilst we played Saints. That doesn't seem reward for me for winning 6 extra matches in the regular season. Granted it allowed us a second chance but I'd have swapped positions with them. That's not Leeds fault but a fault in the play off system and it does leave a bitter taste. However, I'll be honest I don't think we'd have won next week, whoever we would have played. We ended up out of gas and I really think we've do so well to get so far.

One thing that can't be faulted was the effort of the fans yesterday. Sung all the way to the end. Fantastic effort. The "Cherry and in our blood..........ancient and loyal.......until we die!" ditty went down a storm as well. That's the kind of chants we need. Nice and simple and to the point and the best part about that one is that it doesn't get spoiled and drowned out by the drum!!!!

Finally just a note to say that this report brings to an end of my 10th season writing on this website. I shall be writing a reflection piece when the dust has settled in a couple of weeks looking back at the rare highs and many lows during that time. It may be 10 seasons completed but the 10th birthday of the website comes next year in March. Someone suggested I should get a testimonial year lol. Anyway, until next year......

Reaction to the Action

Michael Maguire: "Full credit to St Helens they managed to withstand a fair bit we threw at them and we didn't capitalise early on when we needed to and when you do that to a team like Saints they are always going to be around to come back at you. Unfortunately at the end they just did enough to get themselves across the line. It has been outstanding (two years here) and to have the crowd like this in the background, they definitely make it more special. Unfortunately you can't write the script you are after but I am very very proud of the players, to have the two years I have had over here. The experiences we have had, going to Old Trafford last year and Wembley this year. We got so close but you don't get everything you want. I am very proud to have been apart of this Club, I have been honoured since the moment I walked in the door and I am still honoured to be a part of the history that goes along with Wigan, not only have I got a great bunch of boys, the way they have learned and experienced the things we have, they are a real great bunch."

St Helens coach Royce Simmons: "They got a couple of early penalties and were on a roll for the first 18 minutes. They didn't let us into an attacking position. A lot of sides wouldn't have hung in. It was a draining period for us. There was also a fair period in the middle of the second half when we didn't touch the ball. We had to do a lot of defence in big blocks but we scrambled really well and made some last-ditch tackles.I was confident at half-time. I thought we were playing as individuals a bit in the first half and we said that, when we played as a team, we looked dangerous."

Team Sheets

- St Helens Position Wigan 1
1 Paul Wellens Full Back Sam Tomkins 1
28 Tom Makinson Winger Josh Charnley 25
3 Michael Shenton Centre Joel Tomkins 12
5 Francis Meli Centre George Carmont 4
22 Jamie Foster Winger Pat Richards 5
25 Lee Gaskell Stand Off Brett Finch 17
20 Jonny Lomax Scrum Half Thomas Leuluai 7
10 James Graham Prop Jeff Lima 15
9 James Roby Hooker Mike McIlorum 9
11 Tony Puletua Prop Andy Coley 10
4 Iosia Soliola 2nd Row Harrison Hansen 11
12 Jon Wilkin 2nd Row Ryan Hoffman 16
16 Paul Clough L.Forward Sean O'Loughlin 13
14 Scott Moore Substitute Paul Prescott 14
15 Louie McCarthy-
Substitute Eamon O'Carroll 20
17 Gary Wheeler Substitute Liam Farrell 22
19 Andrew Dixon Substitute Chris Tuson 23
- Royce Simmons Coach Michael Maguire -

Score Sheet

St Helens 26 --- Wigan Warriors 18
Tries (4):
Lee Gaskell
Paul Wellens
Jamie Foster
James Roby
--- Tries (3):
Josh Charnley
Eamon O'Carroll
Sam Tomkins
Jamie Foster 5/6
--- Goals:
Pat Richards 3/4

Scoring and Incident Pattern

05mins:18 St Helens Wigan 02 Penalty Goal: Pat Richards (1/1)
08mins:04 St Helens 00 Wigan 06 Try: Josh Charnley
- St Helens 00 Wigan 06 P.Richards Missed Conversion (1/2)
23mins:22 St Helens 04 Wigan 06 Try: Lee Gaskell
- St Helens 06 Wigan 06 Conversion: Jamie Foster (1/1)
26mins:52 St Helens 08 Wigan 06 Penalty Goal: Jamie Foster (2/2)
30mins:02 St Helens 08 Wigan 10 Try: Eamon O'Carroll
- St Helens 08 Wigan 12 Conversion: Pat Richards (2/3)
Half Time St Helens 08 Wigan Warriors 12
45mins:13 St Helens 12 Wigan 12 Try: Paul Wellens
- St Helens 14 Wigan 12 Conversion: Jamie Foster (3/3)
50mins:20 St Helens 16 Wigan 12 Penalty Goal: Jamie Foster (4/4)
56mins:48 St Helens 20 Wigan 12 Try: Jamie Foster
- St Helens 20 Wigan 12 J.Foster Missed Conversion (4/5)
73mins:47 St Helens 24 Wigan 12 Try: James Roby
- St Helens 26 Wigan 12 Conversion: Jamie Foster (5/6)
75mins:49 St Helens 26

Wigan 16

Try: Sam Tomkins
- St Helens 26 Wigan 18 Conversion: Pat Richards (3/4)
Full Time St Helens 26 Wigan Warriors 18

Video Highlights

Top 5 Wigan Players as voted on our Message Board

Man of the Match: Thomas Leuluai
2nd: Jeff Lima 3rd: Sean O'Loughlin 4th: Brett Finch 5th: Andy Coley


Phil Bentham

Penalties Conceded

St Helens 4 Wigan 8

Video Referee

Ben Thaler

Match Attendance

9,421 (Approx 3,200 Wigan Fans)


Dry. Very Hot for the time of year.