Saints missed the chance to return to the top of the First Utility Super League after their thrilling second-half fightback in the final match of the Magic Weekend in Manchester was cut short by a revitalised Warrington.
Threequarters Rhys Evans and Joel Monaghan each scored two of the Wolves’ eight tries in a 41-24 success which was sweet revenge for a 38-8 mauling at home by Saints in their opening match of the season.
Saints were heading for a humiliating derby defeat when they trailed 36-6 early in the second half but they rallied superbly to provide fitting entertainment for a second-day crowd of 28,214, which helped establish a Magic Weekend attendance record of 64,552, eclipsing the previous best aggregate of 63,716 at the Etihad Stadium in 2012.
It was Warrington’s sixth win in eight Magic Weekend fixtures and will give breathe new life into their flagging campaign.
They were boosted by the return of England forward Ben Westwood from a six-match injury and they could hardly have made a better start, with four tries in the first 24 minutes.
Right winger Gene Ormsby opened the scoring after six minutes and, after Jonny Lomax had re-started play by kicking out on the full, the Wolves maintained the pressure and Evans doubled the lead, profiting from a superb offload by second rower Trent Waterhouse.
Saints could not get our of their own half in the first quarter and they fell further behind when England prop Chris Hill charged over for a third try and Chris Bridge succeeded with his first conversion attempt to make it 14-0.
If Saints felt they were not getting the rub of the green, there was further evidence of it when Evans grabbed his second try four minutes later after Stefan Ratchford’s grubber kick rebounded off a defender into his arms.
The momentum began to turn in the last 10 minutes of the first half, when breaks by Jon Wilkin and Jordan Turner would have produced scores with steadier finishing.
Another clean break, this time by scrum-half Luke Walsh, led to Warrington being reduced to 12 men, with Ormsby sin-binned for holding down Lomax in the tackle to prevent a quick-play-the-ball five metres out from the line.
Twelve-man Warrington initially held firm and Saints winger Matty Dawson had a try disallowed for a forward pass but the pressure finally told three minutes before the break when prop Alex Walmsley took Walsh’s short pass to go through a gap in the defence to touch down.
Walsh’s goal cut the gap to 12 points at the break but their chance to fully get back in the contest disappeared when stand-off Lance Hohaia broke clear early in the second half but made a hash of the final pass.
Warrington immediately took advantage of the let-off as centre Ryan Atkins got Evans racing down the touchline before taking a return pass to touch down for his side’s fifth try.
Three minutes later, the clever Ratchford carved out a try for Joel Monaghan and then got full-back Matty Russell racing 70 metres for another.
Bridge took his goal tally to four from seven attempts to stretch his side’s lead to 36-6 and a third successive blow-out looked on the cards after hefty wins for Castleford and Huddersfield earlier in the day.
However, Walsh had other ideas and the introduction of skipper Paul Wellens also had a galvanising effect on St Helens.
Turner sparked the fightback on 52 minutes, forcing his way over from out wide, and Wellens was twice involved as Saints attacked Warrington’s right side to produce scores for Hohaia and Dawson.
Walsh kicked superbly to convert all three tries to make it 36-24 but Ratchford put three scores between the teams with a drop goal on 68 minutes and Joel Monaghan made sure of the win when he intercepted Wilkin’s pass and went 70 metres for his second try.