Yates’ verdict: Saints defy logic to repel Wigan

St Helens' Kyle Amor is tackled by Lee Mossop of Wigan Warriors, Sean O'Loughlin and Willie Isa
St Helens' Kyle Amor is tackled by Lee Mossop of Wigan Warriors, Sean O'Loughlin and Willie Isa

Saints have pulled off some stunning victories over Wigan Warriors since the advent of Super League in 1996 but few, if any, will have matched their gusty, backs-to-the-wall 80 minutes show of sheer defiance at the DW Stadium on Friday night.

It almost defied logic as the Warriors - desperate to end the regular season on top of the table - threw everything but the kitchen sink at their rivals, only to find themselves on the wrong end of a disbelieving 23-4 .

John Bateman of Wigan Warriors is tackled by St Helens' Jon Wilkin

John Bateman of Wigan Warriors is tackled by St Helens' Jon Wilkin

The fact that the hosts only grabbed one try in the match and didn’t score a single point in the second half was testimony to arguably one of the finest Saints’ defensive displays of the summer era.

They were as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar at the back, repelling wave upon wave of Wigan attacks throughout an action-packed derby in which controversial refereeing decisions and mistakes at unexpected times added extra spice to

a feisty and blood-and-thunder occasion.

A mass brawl, which led to Wigan new boy Frank-Paul Nuuausala and St Helens Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook being sin-binned in the dying minutes, summed up the commitment and almost insatiable desire of both teams to put the old enemy to the sword.

St Helens' Jonny Lomax shouts to his team mates

First Utility Super League match at the DW Stadium Stadium, Wigan

St Helens' Jonny Lomax shouts to his team mates First Utility Super League match at the DW Stadium Stadium, Wigan

But no one can begrudge Saints their victory, achieved as head coach Keiron Cunningham said later on the performance of every single member of his 17-man squad.

He added: “I’m just pleased for my players, they stood up to everything Wigan threw at us - they could probably still be playing now and not score.

“That’s what self-belief brings to a side. We went through a tough spell but we’re a real close-knit group and now we’re heading in the right direction.

“Wigan are a great attacking side and were fully stacked tonight. They had lots of threats but I thought we stuck to the plan.”

It’s just a pity that the number of travelling fans was way down on the normal level of support at the visitors’ end of the ground on derby day.

They will have regretted staying away - but hopefully will return for the Super 8s which get under way shortly and on this kind of form write Saints off at your peril.

Hours after the game I headed to Eastbourne for a week’s holiday - and after all the tension and excitement of Friday night - it will be a much-needed and welcome break!