Super League: St Helens boost play-off prospects with win over under-strength Wigan
Last Updated: 23/07/13 10:01am
Joe Greenwood's late try sealed a 22-16 win for St Helens over arch rivals Wigan Warriors at Langtree Park.
Substitute prop Greenwood, who had dropped the ball when a try looked certain just after half-time, crossed in the 77th minute to boost seventh-placed Saints' play-off prospects and prevent Wigan overtaking Huddersfield at the top of Super League.
Saints led 12-0 after 17 minutes thanks to two tries from Adam Swift, who had been recalled from dual registration club Whitehaven for his first start in three months.
But Wigan responded to move 14-12 ahead early in the second half thanks to three tries, the first from Pat Richards followed by a double for Josh Charnley, who extended his tally for the season to a league-leading 27.
Two penalties for Saints compared with a pair of Wigan drop goals, including an incredible long-range effort from out wide by Richards, left the game level at 16-16 heading into the closing stages.
And, after Blake Green was sin-binned for the latest in a long line of Wigan infringements, Greenwood's try clinched the result.
Wigan were without Man of Steel Sam Tomkins, skipper Sean O'Loughlin and second rower Harrison Hansen with one eye on Saturday's Challenge Cup semi-final against London Broncos.
And it was St Helens who immediately seized the initiative with a Swift double inside 17 minutes.
On both occasions, the winger went over in the left corner one play after Wigan had been penalised. Francis Meli delivered the scoring pass for the first and Jonny Lomax entered the line on an angle before drawing the last defender and offloading for the second.
Gareth O'Brien, on loan from Warrington until the end of the season, kicked both conversions from the touchline.
But Wigan, despite a steady stream of errors, got themselves back into the contest when Richards went over in the left corner in the 24th minute.
Again it came soon after a penalty, this time for obstruction on full-back Ryan Hampshire, before quick hands from Liam Farrell sent Richards over unopposed.
Wigan added their second just before the break when Dom Crosby spilled Matty Smith's high cross-kick and Charnley pounced on the loose ball. Richards' failure to land either conversion was the only difference as St Helens went in for half-time with a 12-8 lead.
Hampshire, Tomkins' 18-year-old understudy at full-back, then showed his promise in both defence and attack. First, he got back to dislodge the ball from the grasp of Greenwood as he attempted to cross for a try and then linked decisively in attack, releasing Charnley with a one-handed flick.
This time Richards added the conversion to make it 14-12 but Saints levelled on 54 minutes when Wigan prop Scott Taylor was put on report for a late tackle on O'Brien and Tommy Makinson kicked the resulting penalty.
Richards then swivelled out wide to unleash a 50-metre drop goal and restore Wigan's lead - but that was only the start of a frenetic final quarter.
As the visitors began to lose their discipline, Makinson, who had taken over the goal-kicking duties from the concussed O'Brien, was twice wide with penalty attempts that would have put his side back in front.
He then gave way to Jordan Turner when Wigan were reduced to 12 men through the sin-binning of Green on 67 minutes and he duly obliged with the penalty to make it 16-15 to the home side.
Just six minutes were left when Smith put over a drop goal, this one from just 30 metres out, to level once more and they were working their way into position for a third when Saints struck the fatal blow.
Makinson ran back Smith's deep kick from his own 20-metre area and found the space to set up the position for Greenwood to go in for the match-winning try, which was converted by Turner.