A late second-half male streaker only served to emphasise the naked truth about Friday’s high octane Saints-Wigan Warriors derby at the Totally Wicked Stadium: the hosts were out-smarted and out-muscled in every department for long spells at a time and three defeats in their last four league and cup games will be a worrying trend as far as head coach Justin Holbrook is concerned.
By the time the final hooter sounded to signal the end of a pulsating encounter, which had been played at a frightening pace throughout and possessed its fair share of quality tries, near misses and frantic defending, table-topping St Helens had been almost stripped to the bare bone by their neighbours who were desperate to give head coach Shaun Wane a memorable send off in his final sortie into ‘enemy territory’ before joining the Scottish rugby union ranks.
At the same time it is highly unlikely that the League Leaders’ Shield will slip out of Saints’ grasp following this result but if they are to progress beyond the semi-final stages of the competition they will have to brush up in one of two areas which are showing signs of fraying on the edges.
Noticeably, in recent games, they have been second best in the physical battles and it is no-coincidence that their dip in form came after powerhouse forward Dominique Peyroux broke his arm against Warrington Wolves at the end of July.
Up to that point he had been Mr Consistency and while one man doesn’t make a team, Saints have struggled in his absence and Holbrook will be keeping his fingers crossed that the New Zealander will be back in contention for a first team spot when the semi-finals come round.
Wigan supporters were naturally delighted to claim a first win over their arch-rivals at the third attempt this year - and no one can begrudge them the way they celebrated at the end.
Realistically, though, the result will have little bearing on the top four positions but Warriors’ fans maybe feel it will give them a psychological edge if, or when, the two clubs meet further down the line.
Saints, on the other hand, will be hoping that Friday’s disappointing home defeat - their second in three Super 8 encounters - will give them a much-needed wake up call as they face a far from easy task on Saturday when heading to the south of France to lock horns with Challenge Cup holders Catalans Dragons.
Saints tries: Makinson (40 and 51 mins).
Goals: Richardson (52 mins)
Warriors tries: Sarginson (4 and 32 mins), Bateman (37 mins), Davies (41 mins), Gildart (64 mins), O’Loughlin (70 mins).
Goals: Escare (0/2), Williams (38, 65 and 71 mins).
Referee Chris Kendall (Huddersfield)
Teams - Saints: 23. Ben Barba; 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 19. Regan Grace; 1. Jonny Lomax, 18. Danny Richardson; 16. Luke Thompson, 9. James Roby, 14. Luke Douglas, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 11. Zeb Taia, 15. Morgan Knowles. Subs: 10. Kyle Amor, 12. Jon Wilkin, 20. Matty Lees 21. Jack Ashworth.
Warriors: 20. Morgan Escare; 2. Tom Davies, 19. Willie Isa, 3. Dan Sarginson, 4. Oliver Gildart; 6. George Williams, 9. Thomas Leuluai; 25. Romain Navarrete, 7. Sam Powell, 10. Ben Flower, 40. Joe Greenwood, 14. John Bateman, 13. Sean OíLoughlin. Subs: 8. Tony Clubb, 15. Ryan Sutton, 30. Gabriel Hamlin, 35. Ollie Partington.