Super League: St Helens 21-18 Wigan Warriors
|Betfred Super League|
|St Helens (12) 21|
|Tries: Barba, Taia, Grace Goals: Richardson 4 Drop goal: Richardson|
|Wigan (2) 18|
|Tries: J Tomkins 2, Isa Goals: Escare 2, Williams|
Super League leaders St Helens survived a second-half Wigan fightback to edge to a narrow Good Friday derby victory.
Saints led 12-2 at the break after tries from Ben Barba and Zeb Taia, but the Warriors then rallied, crossing twice themselves through Joel Tomkins and Willie Isa to get back to 14-14.
From Wigan's failed drop-goal attempt, Regan Grace's try won it for Saints.
Danny Richardson converted, then also crucially added a killer drop-goal before Tomkins' brave second try.
With less than a minute to go, Wigan surprisingly took the touchline kick, George Williams slicing wide - and that ran down the clock to earn Saints a first Good Friday win over their old rivals in nine attempts.
Wigan needed to win this battle of the top two by 14 points to overtake Saints, but instead ended the day four points behind their old rivals, who have now won seven of their first eight games this season.
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No Sam Tomkins for Wigan
The Warriors were without without an ill Sam Tomkins, while his replacement Morgan Escare himself climbed off his sick bed to take his place.
After Escare had opened the scoring with a penalty, Saints responded well with two of their three tries.
Loose forward Jon Wilkin, making his 400th appearance for the club, combined sweetly with prop Luke Thompson to put Barba clear and, from just inside his own half, the Australian rounded Escare with ease for the joint Super League scorer's ninth try of the season.
Richardson added the conversion and Saints increased their lead five minutes before half-time when second rower Taia took a short pass from impressive captain James Roby.
Wigan got back to within four points when Joel Tomkins took George Williams' inside pass to touch down for a try that Escare converted.
The Warriors then went ahead for the first time on 65 minutes when second rower Isa scooped up a loose ball to score - and Williams added the extras.
But, in a frenetic finale, once Richardson's penalty had tied up the scores once more and Wigan half-back Sam Powell had missed with his drop-goal attempt, Ryan Morgan's break created the opening for Jonny Lomax's suspiciously forward-looking pass to nippy winger Grace's winning try in the left corner.
Richardson made it four goals from as many attempts, then also put over a drop-goal for good measure, which rendered the powerful Tomkins' bullocking second try mere consolation.
Saints' first Easter victory in this fixture since 2009, when the game was played on Maundy Thursday, came following a pre-match pep talk from their special guest, Australia coach Mal Meninga, who is still revered for his one-season stint at Knowsley Road in 1984-85.
St Helens coach Justin Holbrook:
"It's great that Mal could be here and I got him in to talk to them. Although he was only here for a season, everyone still talks about the impact he had. To get Mal to the game was awesome.
"It was a fantastic game of rugby league. I saw highlights of the Good Friday clashes over the years and it delivered again.
"Both teams were run off their feet, but we just hung in there. For Wigan to get their noses in front and for us to respond, I'm rapt."
Wigan coach Shaun Wane:
"I can't put into words how bad I feel. It's a very important game in our calendar. But, in the cold light of day, when I look back, I'll be okay with that.
"We had to change everything this morning losing Sam Tomkins. Without a doubt it hurt us. But it is what it is. Morgan is a good player and we should have done better.
"We had a load of disruption but, to come from 12-2 down at St Helens, makes me very proud. We did some really good things but it just wasn't enough to beat a good side like Saints."
St Helens: Barba; Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Grace; Lomax, Richardson; Amor, Roby, Thompson, Peyroux, Taia, Wilkin.
Interchanges: Fages, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Knowles.
Wigan: Escare; Davies, Bateman, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Powell; Clubb, Leuluai, Flower, Isa, Farrell, O'Loughlin.
Replacements: J Tomkins, Sutton, Tautai, Woods.
Referee: Robert Hicks (RFL).