St Helens dominate as rivals Wigan fall to fifth consecutive defeat
Champions St Helens piled on the agony for Wigan with a 24-6 derby triumph at a rain-lashed Totally Wicked Stadium that condemned their arch rivals to a fifth successive defeat, their worst run in Super League for 15 years.
The out-of-sorts Warriors were forced to play with 11 men at one stage in the second half after having two players sin-binned and they were trailing 24-0 when Liam Farrell scored their only try.
Full-back Lachlan Coote, who is out of contract at the end of the year and is being linked with a shock move to Hull KR, demonstrated his value to Saints with one of their three tries and six goals from seven attempts.
St Helens looked refreshed after a 17-day break while Wigan were playing a second top-five clash in five days and the rigours are clearly taking a toll on Adrian Lam’s injury-hit team, who are experiencing their worst run since 2006 when they won just two of their first 16 league games.
The Warriors flirted with relegation that year and, although they have no such concern this time after beginning the season with seven straight wins, these are worrying times for last year’s Grand Final runners-up.
This was their first meeting with Saints since Jack Welsby grabbed a last-second 8-4 win in November’s epic Grand Final and it never looked likely to be as close, such is the current state of the rudderless Wigan team.
The champions were boosted by the return of England centre Mark Percival, who missed the whole of June with hamstring issues, as they look to head to Wembley for the Challenge Cup final in under a fortnight’s time with a full-strength team.
Wigan, with Jackson Hastings deputising at full-back for injured duo Bevan French and Zak Hardaker, had prop Brad Singleton back from suspension but they lost fellow front rower Oliver Partington with a head injury early in the second half.
Coote opened the scoring with the first of three penalty goals and helped create the opening try, hoisting a high kick which Wigan winger Jake Bibby fumbled under pressure to gift the score to Regan Grace.
The Australian then scored Saints’ second try on 24 minutes, scooping up a wayward pass from scrum-half Theo Fages that wrong-footed the Warriors defence, and kicked two further penalties to stretch his side’s lead to 18-0.
Befitting a traditional Saints-Wigan derby, tempers became frayed after a push off the ball by centre Willie Isa on the returning Percival which was placed on report by referee James Child.
Child shortly afterwards handed a yellow card to Wigan second rower Kai Pearce-Paul for a late tackle on Coote which meant the visitors were down to 12 men for the first 10 minutes of the second half.
They were then down to 11 for five of them after Isa joined his team-mate in the sin bin for a late tackle on Percival, followed immediately by a flop on Grace.
Wigan were facing a total humiliation at that stage but Farrell ensured they would not suffer the ignominy of a whitewash when he took Sam Powell’s short pass close to the line to crash over for a consolation try, which Harry Smith converted.