Super League Grand Final: St Helens 14-6 Wigan Warriors
|St Helens (2) 14|
|Tries: Soliola, Makinson Goals: Percival 3|
|Wigan (6) 6|
|Tries: Burgess Goals: Smith|
St Helens clinched their first Super League title since 2006 with victory over 12-man Wigan in the Grand Final.
Warriors prop Ben Flower was sent off for punching Lance Hohaia in only the second minute of the match, also ending the Saints playmaker's involvement.
Joe Burgess' try and Matty Smith's goal had edged Wigan 6-2 ahead at half-time, Mark Percival replying with a penalty.
But St Helens overpowered the wilting Warriors as tries from Sia Soliola and Tommy Makinson settled it.
Victory means departing Saints head coach Nathan Brown ends his tenure in England with the biggest prize in his second full season at Langtree Park following his move from Huddersfield.
It was also St Helens' first victory in their last six Grand Final appearances.
|What the coaches said|
|Wigan coach Shaun Wane on Ben Flower: "It's a red. He punched him in the head and deserved to go. He's devastated. He made a huge error but we just move on, we're all in it together."|
|Saints coach Nathan Brown on Ben Flower: "I think he's served a fair punishment. He got what he deserved and he'll be thinking, 'I cost my side a Grand Final'. He's served his time and the good thing is Lance hasn't broken anything."|
|Wane on the game: "I thought we could have won the game and that was my mind-set after the red card. It would have been a great victory for us. Keeping them to 14-6 with no Micky Mac (injured hooker Michael McIlorum) and Ben was a great effort but Saints were worthy winners."|
|Brown on his last game as Saints coach: "If I stayed around next year it would have been for money and while that's good, it's not the right thing to do to the club because they are a champion club. But for me it's just family. We have missed them."|
James Roby, having missed out on Man of Steel to Castleford hooker Daryl Clark, can console himself with being named man of the match and receiving the Harry Sunderland Trophy for his tireless display.
Wigan coach Shaun Wane, a proud front-rower himself during his playing days, will rue Flower's moment of madness as last season's champions failed to go back-to-back but can be proud of the spirit his side showed to remain in the contest.
Old Trafford has hosted some big events in its illustrious history, including the Rugby League World Cup final in 2013, but few occasions will have generated the white-hot atmosphere that accompanied the two teams on to the field before kick-off.
Such intensity made it inevitable there would be flash points, and the first erupted inside two minutes, after Hohaia collided late with Flower.
The Warriors prop retaliated by laying out Hohaia with a punch before standing over him and landing another while the New Zealander was on the ground. Referee Phil Bentham had no hesitation in showing Flower the first red card in Grand Final history.
|How Twitter reacted to Ben Flower's red card|
|Barrow Police: "When out and about tonight don't act like @WiganWarriorsRL Ben Flower or you will end up #bangedupinbarrow"|
|QPR midfielder Joey Barton: "Actually feel a bit sorry for Ben Flower. Lance started it with his elbow. Superb first dig from Flower. Second when he's KO'd is out of order."|
|Former England rugby union player Brian Moore: "Ben Flower - his first punch was retaliation for a cheap shot on him; second one was unforgiveable."|
|Former Wigan winger Martin Offiah: "Second punch Flower threw was over the top but in Rugby League if you forearm somebody in the face you can't complain if he clocks you one. If I had done what Lance did I'd expect a slap. Lance Hohaia will never attack Ben Flower again. Not condoning second punch on a prone player."|
|Former England striker Gary Lineker: "If only other team sports could match the on-field behaviour of football."|
|Former England striker Michael Owen: "In China but just seen those punches. First one was shocking but the second one was a disgrace. Can you imagine the outcry if a footballer did that? To hit someone again when they are already out cold is hard to understand."|
Shorn of their only recognised playmaker, Saints initially struggled to make their advantage count, despite the best efforts of Jordan Turner, who stepped up to fill the void.
Wigan coped gamely without the Wales prop and showed their threat through breaks from Josh Charnley and Burgess out wide.
Errors from both sides, largely down to the pace of the game, saw possession frequently change hands and equally both defences were scrambling defiantly to keep the game scoreless.
Such was the tightness of the game that Wigan pivot Smith, who played for Saints the last time these rivals met at Old Trafford in 2010, took the opportunity to nudge his side ahead from the tee after a penalty was awarded against Adam Swift.
Paul Wellens' kick out on the full seemed to sum up Saints' fortunes at that stage but further Wigan indiscipline gave Percival the chance to level the scores with a penalty of his own.
Even so, it was Wane's depleted side who went in at half-time with the lead. Dan Sarginson forced a knock-on to give them head and feed, and subsequently Blake Green's cut-out ball on the left found Burgess, who squeezed in at the corner. Smith pulled his conversion attempt wide.
With a chance to regroup, Saints were expected to get at the tiring Warriors in the second period, and they eventually found a breakthrough that edged them in front for the first time in the match.
Soliola finished off the move when he shrugged off three Wigan tacklers to put the ball down on the line from a Roby pass, and Percival added the extras.
|St Helens end their Old Trafford hoodoo|
|Saints lost five finals in a row between 2007 and 2011 at the home of Manchester United, including 2010's loss at the hands of fierce rivals Wigan.|
Wigan showed their fight when Farrell broke away to bear down on the Saints line but he was stopped by Makinson, and when the ball was worked wide Matty Bowen failed to find Wigan hands with his offload.
Charnley's bulldozing run down the left from Joel Tomkins' pass was stopped illegally to earn Wigan a penalty that Smith again sent wide.
It was a miss that proved costly as Makinson climbed above Wigan defenders to claim Wellens' high kick and touch down.
Saints were still made to work as Wigan's halves probed, and Warriors' frustration was palpable when John Bateman tangled with Soliola after another dangerous kick.
Roby's announcement as man of the match gave Saints fans further reason to cheer as their opposite numbers headed for the exits, and the sound of the hooter confirmed the league leaders were able to add further silverware to their cabinet for 2014.
St Helens: Wellens, Makinson, Percival, Jones, Swift, Flanagan, Hohaia, Amor, Roby, Masoe, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Turner.
Replacements: Manu, Walmsley, Richards, Thompson.
Wigan: Bowen, Charnley, Gelling, Sarginson, Burgess, Green, Smith, Flower, Powell, Crosby, Tomkins, L. Farrell, O'Loughlin.
Replacements: Pettybourne, Clubb, Bateman, Williams.
Referee: Phil Bentham (RFL)