Saints coach Nathan Brown is refusing to get carried away by his team’s position at the top of the First Utility Super League despite watching them pull three points clear after an enthralling 16-12 derby win at Wigan.
Winger Tom Makinson, Super League’s leading tryscorer, touched down twice to take his total for the season to 17 and evergreen full-back Paul Wellens made it six tries in his last five matches as Saints clung on for a vital win to deny weakened Wigan the chance to take over top spot.
“It was a wonderful night but this is a long race,” Brown cautioned. “It’s a tight competition at the moment.
“If you look at the table, you’re two bad performances away from first to fifth. We need to make sure we back this up and have a good month.”
Saints suffered a major blow when influential scrum-half Luke Walsh went off midway through the first half with a pulled muscle in his back but Jon Wilkin slotted effortlessly into his role and combined with Lance Hohaia to produce one of the club’s best results under Brown.
Strangely, the Australian chose the occasion to launch a stinging attack on the performance of referee Phil Bentham and accused Wigan coach Shaun Wane of putting pressure on the Rugby Football League’s referees boss Jon Sharp and his match officials in the build-up to the game.
That brought a swift rebuke from Wane, who called Brown’s comments “absolute garbage” and described his behaviour as disgraceful, while Brown will face an anxious wait to see if he faces any action from the RFL.
“It’s just disappointing because it was a sensational game,” Brown said. “Both sets of fans will have gone away knowing their players gave everything. Everyone scrapped and fought for everything.
“But you just a fair go and we didn’t get a fair go tonight.”
Wigan wingers Josh Charnley and Joe Burgess scored three tries between them and the result came down in the end to the goalkicking, with Saints’ third-choice marksman Mark Percival succeeding with two of his three attempts while Wigan’s Matty Smith failed with all his three.
Despite the loss, Wane was proud of his injury-hit team’s efforts and is expecting bottom club London Broncos to feel a backlash in their next match next Saturday.
“We’re in a good place,” Wane said. “With the team we had out, to push them so close - and we possibly could have won in the end - was a great effort.
“It’s disappointing tonight but I’ll be alright tomorrow. We’ll re-group and go down to London and they’ll feel the wrath I hope.”