St Helens 18 Wigan 14

St Helens Josh Jones celebrates his try against Wigan Warriors
St Helens Josh Jones celebrates his try against Wigan Warriors

Reigning Super League champions St Helens snatched a dramatic 18-14 victory over Wigan to ensure the race for the league leaders’ shield will go down to the wire.

Centre Josh Jones pounced for the match-winning try three minutes from the end of a pulsating derby at Langtree Park to deny Wigan the chance to take over top spot.

With third-placed Huddersfield winning 34-20 at Hull, it means Leeds remain in pole position, but any of the top four teams can now claim the shield - and with it a guaranteed place in the 2016 World Club Series - which will be decided on the final weekend of the regular season.

Saints, who battled superbly in the absence of stand-off Travis Burns and prop Alex Walmsley, were never in front until Jones’ late try but there was little to choose between two edgy teams throughout a typical fiercely-contested derby.

Saints stand-off Jordan Turner had a try disallowed by the video referees for obstruction before Wigan second rower Joel Tomkins opened the scoring on 11 minutes, sidestepping his way past full-back Adam Quinlan after Matty Smith put him through a hole in the home defence.

St Helens were forced into some desperate defence after conceding three goal-line drop-outs in quick succession but their line held and, as they came more into the game, a rare push in the scrum - a nod perhaps to events at Twickenham - gave them a perfect attacking position.

A knock-on by substitute Mose Masoe let Wigan off the hook but they were unable to relieve the pressure, and Saints drew level seven minutes before the break when scrum-half Luke Walsh dummied his way over for a try he converted.

A free-for-all sparked by a high tackle by Wigan substitute Tony Clubb on the returning Atelea Vea demonstrated the tension evident among both sets of players and the half-time hooter was timely, with referee Robert Hicks content to allow tempers to cool in the dressing room.

Another drop-out, forced by their superior kicking game, created the opportunity for Wigan to regain the lead early in the second half.

Bowen put over a penalty awarded for interference in the ruck and converted a brilliant solo try from stand-off George Williams, who demonstrated exceptional footwork to make the initial break and then turned Quinlan inside out to finish off.

The game might have been over had Wigan winger Joe Burgess been allowed a try after gathering Smith’s high kick but slow-motion replays indicated a knock-on and Saints took full advantage of the let-off.

Walsh regained possession with a ball steal on Bowen and then provided the floated pass that gave winger Adam Swift the chance to beat two defenders and score his side’s second try.

Walsh’s touchline conversion cut the Warriors’ lead to just two points but it seemed as if they would be left to rue a decision by referee Robert Hicks to pull back full-back Adam Quinlan for a forward pass when he looked a likely scorer.

However, they claimed the spoils in the most dramatic fashion, with the Exeter-bound Jones leaping above Bowen to collect skipper Jon Wilkin’s high kick and touch down for a crucial try on what could be his final home appearance.