St Helens put one hand on the League Leaders’ Shield with an impressive 14-6 derby win over Wigan that takes them 10 points clear at the top with one round left of the regular Super League season.
Even without Ben Barba and Mark Percival, Super League’s leading tryscorers with 39 touchdowns between them, Saints had too much flair for an injury-hit Wigan side who will lose second spot in the table if Castleford beat Huddersfield on Friday night.
Second row pair Dominique Peyroux and Morgan Knowles scored Saints’ tries but more significantly were at the heart of a magnificent defensive effort that carried their side to a 13th successive win.
It was also St Helens’ 100th league win over Wigan which was lapped up by the 3,000 travelling fans who can surely start booking their tickets for Old Trafford.
Front row duo James Roby and Luke Thompson were immense for Justin Holbrook’s men while substitute Jack Ashworth caught the eye on only his eighth Super League appearance and his first since the 2016 season.
Without half a dozen senior players through injury, Wigan gave a debut to centre Chris Hankinson, who did not look out of place after putting his career as an apprentice electrician on hold to go full-time, but former Saints forward Joe Greenwood made a low-key comeback against his old club.
Both sides showed signs of nerves in a cagey opening, with several handling errors even before the big hits started going in.
The first half was fast and furious but yielded only one try, which was something of a gift to Peyroux after defenders Liam Marshall and Dan Sarginson got in a muddle attempting to collect a grubber kick from Theo Fages.
Danny Richardson converted the try and extended his side’s lead with a 19th-minute penalty, which followed a superb break through the heart of the Wigan defence from the in-form Thompson.
Saints defended superbly and were good value for their 8-0 interval lead, which would have been greater but for a last-ditch tackle by second rower John Bateman on Saints threequarter Tom Makinson.
The visitors continued to boss the show in the second half, when Makinson and Richardson terrorised the Wigan defence with some electric running.
Saints laid siege to their opponents’ line and the pressure told when Knowles took a short pass from Fages to force his way over for their second try, to which Richardson added a third goal.
Determined not to be whitewashed, Wigan stepped up their efforts in the final quarter without ever looking like threatening to take the spoils.
Prop Romain Navarrete had a try disallowed for a double movement and Sarginson was held up over the line before full-back Sam Tomkins jinked his way over for a solo try 10 minutes from the end and added the conversion.