Rival coaches clash over referee

Saints coach Nathan Brown
Saints coach Nathan Brown

Saints coach Nathan Brown branded his Wigan counterpart Shane Wane a “whinger” after a war of words broke out in the post-match press-conference following his side’s stunning derby win.

Brown blasted the performance of referee Phil Bentham after his side were on the wrong end of an 11-5 penalty count during their 16-12 victory over the reigning champions and accused 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.

Wigan Warriors' Dom Crosby is tackled by St Helens' Willie Manu during the First Utility Super League at the DW Stadium, Wigan

Wigan Warriors' Dom Crosby is tackled by St Helens' Willie Manu during the First Utility Super League at the DW Stadium, Wigan

“I thought the officiating of the game was horrible,” Brown said. “I thought Phil Bentham had an absolutely shocking performance.

“Waney has been whinging for the last two months and then we cop it on the backside today.

“We never ring Jon Sharp, we don’t complain after any game and then you get a performance like that because other coaches are putting the referees under pressure.

“He’s a good referee, Phil, and I’m not saying the 14 or 15 penalties that we got against us didn’t deserve to be penalties but I can assure you I’ll be able to find another thousand you could have penalised Wigan for.

“I find it sad. We never complain but, as is the case in the NRL, the more you whinge, the better you get the calls.”

When told of Brown’s comments, Wane responded: “That’s absolute garbage, that’s all I want to say about that.”

Wane then added: “Nathan Brown shouldn’t be allowed to say stuff like that.

“He came out with a comment at the start of the year about head-hunters and he got away with that. It’s just disgraceful that he comes out with stuff like that. I’m fuming about that to be honest.”

St Helens’ victory enabled them to gain revenge for their Good Friday mauling and open up a three-point gap at the top of the table.

Winger Tom Makinson, Super League’s leading tryscorer, touched down twice and evergreen skipper Paul Wellens scored his sixth try in his last five matches as Saints overcame the loss of influential scrum-half Luke Walsh to grind out a notable victory in front of a 20,224 crowd.

Walsh went off after 21 minutes with a pulled muscle in his back but Jon Wilkin slotted effortlessly into his role and combined with Lance Hohaia to condemn the below-strength champions to a second consecutive defeat.

“It was disappointing losing Walshy but the way we responded was brilliant,” added Brown. “We needed to try and find a way to win and we did.

“Larney has been playing well for us and Wilko is one of the most influential players, not only in our team but within the competition. He has a big influence on the way we play.

“We knew at half-time if we addressed one or two things structurally that Wilko and Larney can conjure up enough points for us if we get our defence right.”

With both sides scoring three tries, it 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 team’s efforts.

“I thought we were a little bit dumb with the ball but I couldn’t fault our effort,” Wane said. “I thought we had them in the second half.

“I just feel really frustrated at the minute. If a few decisions from the referee had been different we could have had a win. It’s fine margins in big games like this.”