Warriors win epic Easter battle against St Helens
Two teams, playing the biggest derby in rugby league, Wigan and St Helens showed just why it is unrivalled by any other sport for excitement, passion and guts.
In a blood and thunder encounter, Wigan raced out of the blocks in front of a full to capacity home crowd with Lee Mossop charging down Jordan Turner’s kick for winger George Manfredi to capitalise and cross for the first try in the first minute, with Lee Smith adding the extras.
Midway through the half, Saints struck back through forward Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, who spotted a gap in the Warriors line to bundle over. Following a missed conversion, Wigan led 6-4 and it was an arm wrestle until the break.
Historically, this fixture has brought an abundance of tries. What it lacked in points, however, was made up for in big hits, superb defending on both sides and sheer bravery. The atmosphere was electric, clearly evidenced from the way the players were responding to cries from their respective supporters.
The second half didn’t disappoint, though, with Saints full back Paul Wellens limping out for the restart, it soon became clear he may be a target for the Warriors hitmen. It didn’t take long for coach Keiron Cunningham to realise that the 35-year-old couldn’t go on, and he was soon withdrawn.
In the final quarter, fatigue started to show, though it was no substitute for the effort that sides were putting in. On 72 minutes, St Helens’ Greg Richards ran the ball on the last tackle instead of kicking, which no doubt proved to be the turning point, and Wigan got the handover 30 metres from the line.
With the hosts turning the screw, it was youngster and man-of-the-match George Williams who dinked it to the corner, for Joe Burgess to touchdown, just before being bundled out of the in-goal area.
Saints’ last chance to salvage something from the match was when winger Adam Swift broke free, though it was 20-year-old Ryan Hampshire who made up the ground to not only catch his opposite number, but then drag him into touch. Quite simply, a mammoth effort and it summed up the entire game, as the siren blared a minute later.