Saints ended the regular Super League season on a low with a 32-16 home defeat by Warrington that means they finish fourth and face an away tie in next week’s semi-finals.
Skipper Joel Monaghan and veteran prop Roy Asotasi both touched down on their farewell appearances for the Wolves while winger Kevin Penny scored the last of their six tries to make up for four he had disallowed.
An entertaining last game of the season at Langtree Park was marred by no fewer than 11 referrals to the video referees, who awarded six tries and disallowed five more, four of them to the unlucky Penny.
Saints were a shadow of the side that beat Wigan while the visitors hardly looked like a team with nothing to play for as they secured their first win in four derby meetings in 2015.
The danger signs for Saints were there in the opening moments when Chris Sandow’s towering kick bounced awkwardly and Penny touched down the loose ball only to be denied for a push on defender Mark Percival.
The champions made the most of the let-off, with second rower Joe Greenwood taking Luke Walsh’s short pass to go over for the game’s first try and Walsh added the goal to put his side into a 6-0 lead.
However, a string of handling errors played into Warrington’s hands and they quickly drew level through impressive teenage full-back Jack Johnson, who took Stefan Ratchford’s inside pass to cross for his third try in the last two matches.
Sandow added the conversion and the visitors grew in confidence.
Hooker Daryl Clark lost the ball going for the line and, after Penny prevented a try at the other end with a flying last-ditch tackle on Saints stand-off Jordan Turner, centre Ryan Atkins was held up over the line.
The pressure told when the classy Ratchford sliced through the Saints defence and unselfishly got Monaghan over for his 145th try on his 145th and final appearance and a searing break from Sandow created the position for prop Chris Hill to bounce off Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook’s poor attempt at a tackle to romp over for a third try.
Sandow was off target with both conversion attempts but Warrington quickly built on their 14-6 interval lead, with more help from accident-prone second rower Atelea Vea, who gifted his opponents possession with a fourth handling error.
Atkins stretched out of a two-man tackle to register the Wolves’ fourth try, which followed another break from Ratchford, and Sandow’s second goal made it 20-6.
St Helens began their fightback when left winger Adam Swift collected Jon Wilkin’s kick and finished decisively at the corner.
Penny was denied a second time, this time for offside, and the deficit was down to just four points on 55 minutes when Saints substitute Mark Flanagan forced his way over for a third try.
Penny must have wondered if he had wandered under a ladder when he had two further tries chalked off, one for a knock-on and the other for obstruction, but Warrington were not to be denied and they sealed victory five minutes from the end when Ben Westwood offloaded from the tackle to get Asotasi over for a farewell present.
There was just enough time for Penny to go over in the final minute and Monaghan fittingly wrapped up the scoring with the conversion.