Warrington 18 Saints 20

Alex Walmsley in action for Saints during a recent game
Alex Walmsley in action for Saints during a recent game

Saints extended their winning run to six matches with a dramatic 20-18 derby triumph at Warrington in a thrilling start to the Super 8s.

Warrington fans thought winger Rhys Evans had snatched victory for their side when he crossed in the corner two minutes from the end but slow-motion replays showed he had a foot in touch and that sparked joyous scenes at the away end as Saints supporters among the 10,769 crowd cheered a seventh successive victory at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

It denied Warrington the chance to go top of the table, five days after their Challenge Cup semi-final win over Wakefield, and coach Tony Smith might well point to the five-day turnaround for their relatively low-key performance.

St Helens were six points adrift of the top four only two months ago but now look well placed to reach the semi-final play-offs and, on this form, cannot be ruled out of a return to Old Trafford in October.

Yet it was the Wolves who dominated the early part of the game, with skipper Chris Hill having a fourth-minute try disallowed for a double movement, and it was largely against the run of play when St Helens took the lead midway through the first half, forward Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook taking Jordan Turner’s pass to stretch over the line for his ninth try of the season.

Both teams struggled to find any cohesion and Warrington needed a moment of individual opportunism to draw level, hooker Daryl Clark forcing his way over from dummy half and Kurt Gidley’s conversion making it 6-6.

Saints had plenty of defending to do but they always looked capable of striking from deep and centre Mark Percival combined superbly with his winger Adam Swift to get full-back Jonny Lomax over for a long-range try five minutes before the break.

Percival’s second goal put the visitors 12-6 up and that’s how it stayed for another 20 minutes as both sides continued to come up with errors and penalties.

Percival kicked a penalty on 58 minutes after Hill was punished for a push on his opposing captain Wilkin to put his side two scores in front which eventually proved crucial.

Warrington second rower Jack Hughes, fresh from a skirmish with McCarthy-Scarsbrook which earned him a warning from referee Phil Bentham, gave his side renewed hope when he took Gidley’s short pass to crash over for his side’s second goal and Gidley’s second goal made it 14-12.

Turner, who had been galvanised since his move to Canberra for next season was announced, responded for the visitors by demonstrating remarkable strength to stretch out of a two-man tackle to plant the ball on the line for St Helens’ third try and restore their eight-point lead.

Warrington’s in-form centre Ryan Atkins then came up with a splendid solo try from halfway, showing strength and pace to hold off the chasing defenders, to set up the tense finish.