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|Saturday 12th May 2012|
|Wigan Warriors 18 St Helens 4|
|DW Stadium, Wigan|
|Carnegie Challenge Cup Quarter Final|
Kick Off 2:30pm
|1||Sam Tomkins||T||1||Paul Wellens||T|
|2||Josh Charnley||G3||21||Tom Makinson|
|26||Jack Hughes||3||Michael Shenton|
|4||George Carmont||17||Gary Wheeler|
|24||Anthony Gelling||5||Francis Meli|
|6||Brett Finch||T||6||Lance Hohaia|
|7||Thomas Leuluai||7||Jonny Lomax|
|8||Paul Prescott||14||Anthony Laffranchi|
|9||Michael McIlorum||9||James Roby|
|10||Lee Mossop||8||Josh Perry|
|11||Harrison Hansen||4||Iosia Soliola|
|12||Gareth Hock||13||Chris Flannery|
|13||Sean O'Loughlin||T||12||Jon Wilkin|
|14||Jeff Lima||10||Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook|
|16||Liam Farrell||15||Mark Flanagan|
|17||Chris Tuson||16||Paul Clough|
|21||Epalahame Lauaki||18||Sean Magennis|
For me this was our worst performance of the season by some distance in attack but yet we still won this up tie at a canter. We were way off our best but yet I think we had Saints in our pocket all afternoon.
I like to have a bit of a joke on twitter by using the hashtag #bargeoversaints to highlight how much they lack pace and seem to score most of their tries with flop overs from inside ten metres and this match highlighted that totally. One or two good clean breaks aside, you never feared they had any damage to inflict on us from deep and that is the reality for St Helens fans at the moment.
I mean let's make no bones about it, I think we were their for the taking in this game. Our ball retention was pretty poor and we were lucky that Saints had zero direction and looked pretty clueless in attack.
Yet for all our sloppy attack, we controlled the game with ease and I never felt we were ever going to lose this game. I was very confident going into the game and the reality backed that up. Saints hold zero fears for us anymore. Yes, they did dominate early on but that was off the back of 83% possession in the first ten minutes.
What you have to praise is our defence. It was a dominating pack performance yet again and how proud it was to see our starting six forwards all being academy products for the second time this season.
Like I said, Saints dominated the first ten minutes off the back of a 7 sets out of 7 100% completion rate whilst Wigan threw an error and a forward pass to incomplete two of their first three sets. Shaun Wane is shown on the BBC Coverage after 10 minutes to be going absolutely mental over a poor Mike McIlorum forward pass, but before all that, the pressure had to tell, and it did on just 5 minutes.
The bounce of the football created from Jonny Lomax's grubber kick from 10 metres out was un-defendable really. It bounced kindly into Micheal Shenton's hands and he did well to offload to allow Paul Wellens to score from 0.00000000000027 metres out. Ok, might be exaggerating a bit there but it was standard Saints try. Close to the posts and it should of been an easy conversion for Lomax but he hit an absolute sitter wide.
The reality was Saints needed far more than just 4-0 from that opening ten minutes. If they'd have claimed a second then this game could have been very interesting indeed. But once Wigan got possession, we took control of the contest pretty quickly.
Our first score came from our first meaningful attack in the 13th minute. Penalty got us up field and it was just sheer speed from the ruck that helped Sam Tomkins get over from Brett Finch's pass towards the left corner. Lomax had shot the bolt too early in defence and Sam went through that gap. Big boost of confidence as well to see Josh Charnley convert a difficult kick.
Then on 21 minutes we increased the 6-4 lead with a second try, again attacking the left hand side. Mike McIlorum takes the play the ball under the sticks before finding Finch who shows his true class again with a cut out pass that finds Carmont and takes out two defenders. Still work to do here because George had the winger wrapping him up but he too showed his class by offloading superbly out the back door to send captain Sean O'Loughlin in the corner. Charnley again converted off the touchline to make it 12-4.
After that, got to be honest the result never looked in doubt. Wigan made hard work of wrapping the contest up but we always looked to have that little bit more in the bank compared to Saints and that was because of the experience in the halves from Finch and Tommy Leuluai. We had the edge in the pack battle I thought but the defensive battle was very even indeed but our two halves knew exactly what they were doing whilst Saints pair of Lomax and Hohaia began to look more and more clueless as the game wore on. James Roby is all class for sure but the big teams can control his predictability, and the reliance that the team mates put on his shoulders, and we did that as this game wore on as well.
It was the 50th Minute that Wigan score again and it was all class again from that man Finch. From fourty out he broke clear off a Leuluai pass before sidestepping Slug Wellens at full back to go over close to the posts. A conversion here dusted the game off for me but Charnley ended up missing a sitter as bad as Lomax's early in the game. Shaun Wane was so relaxed about the conversion he was seen on tv saying, "He's missed it????" about 5 seconds after he had done so. I've never seen a kicker like Josh. He'll kick for fun off the touchline but seems to struggle with the sitters. We need him to do better, because it could become vital later on because I question whether or not we will see Pat Richards back later this year. Knee injuries can be funny.
Anyway, 16-4 with 30 minutes to go and again very little in the way of a rally came from St Helens. I wonder if they ever had the belief that they could score twice and back Lomax to convert both times?
Saints did have one opportunity to launch a comeback on the hour mark but Gary Wheeler couldn't ground the ball whilst trying to score from 0.000000000054 metres out. Saints ended up with a drop out from the video ref decision but soon wasted it.
Wigan wrapped up the win with a penalty goal from Charnley from 40 metres out. Similar position to his late effort at Widnes that would of won us the match but he missed. Be honest, you didn't back him to kick it did ya? But he did just that to make it 18-4 with 18 minutes to go. Sean O'Loughlin attempted a late drop goal as well but that went wide.
Wigan fans were left with plenty of time to taunt the Saints fans at the North end of the East Stand but the final hooter went. It was a cracking atmosphere today. We've waited too long for a big cup tie like this.
The other things to note from this game was an injury to Eric Lauaki on 33 minutes that saw him leave the field and not return. He was out cold for a few seconds after taking a bang to the mouth which left him bleeding. He wasn't missed - and I don't say that as a slur on him, because I actually he's getting some unwarranted stick for his discipline, but I mean it in the sense that our pack was so dominating even in his absence.
Also their was a semi scuffle between Sia Soliolia and Gareth Hock on 61 minutes but sadly no fists went flying. I would have liked to have seen that not just because I think it'd be a great fight but also I wanted some biff so my mate Barry Chuckle, the legendary flag waver, could have come on the pitch and got involved. He loves a scrap! Look back at the video of that famous 2004 Good Friday brawl - there's "Barry" (his real name is Tony Martin) with his flag trying to split up Andy Farrell and Paul Sculthorpe hehe.
Final footnote is that Paul Prescott picked up a knee injury that leaves him doubtful for Friday's top of the table clash at Huddersfield. The injury will be assessed on Monday.
Ps....Whilst I think on, I think a little bit of praise is due to Anthony Gelling today. He was all over Shenton and Meli out there on the left wing in attacking high bombs and was unlucky to have pinged for forward passes on last tackles two or three times. He's been a bugs dick away from being top draw in many aspects during the last three weeks but he just needs to keep plugging away and it will come off for him out there I'm sure. I think that sums up this game overall. If we'd have hit top form this could have been a 40-4 type of hammering by Wigan. So to win without scratching around for luck and perfection has to be very pleasing indeed. Top of the league and a cup semi final. Maybe the Shaun Wane doubters will start shutting up now eh?
2012 Challenge Cup Quarter Finals
Friday 11th May 2012
Saturday 12th May 2012
Sunday 13th May 2012