Saints shock champions Wigan
Impressive win leaves visitors just 80 minutes away from Grand Final
By Jonathan Jurejko. Last Updated: 19/09/11 5:43pm
Wellens: Grabbed two tries to help Saints beat their fierce rivals
St Helens moved straight into the Super League play-off semi-finals with a 26-18 win over reigning champions Wigan.
Saints dominated Sunday's qualifying play-off against their great rivals from the start and raced into a richly-deserved 14-0 lead before the half hour mark.
Wigan rallied to get within two points in the second half before Saints regained the initiative through Paul Wellens' second try and another from Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook.
Joel Tomkins touched down to set up a dramatic finale but Saints managed to hold out and earn themselves a well-deserved week off before they resume their Grand Final bid.
It means Wigan, who finished the regular season in second place ahead of Saints, must pick themselves up for a preliminary semi-final against Catalan Dragons at home next weekend.
Contests between these old foes are usually explosive affairs and it took just ten seconds for the repeat of last season's Grand Final to set alight.
Wigan half back Paul Deacon's knock on from the kick off gave a full set to the visitors deep in home territory but a golden opportunity was spurned as winger Tom Makinson was unable to power past Sam Tomkins with the line at his mercy.
It was a frantic start with shell-shocked Wigan put onto the back foot by the quick tempo of the organised Saints side.
Two more chances went begging for the visitors as Jon Wilkin dropped the ball with the line at the mercy before Wigan captain Sean O'Loughlin held up James Graham under the posts.
But it did not take Saints long to get their reward as they stormed into a well-merited 12-0 lead.
Experienced full back Wellens stepped in between two Wigan defenders to grab the opener before Michael Shenton burst through again to set up the simplest of tries for the supporting Jonny Lomax under the home posts.
Jamie Foster booted both of the routine conversions and added a penalty just before the half hour mark when Brett Finch was penalised for holding down.
Still Saints pressed as the game continued at a fast and furious pace but Sam Tomkins, recently crowned Super League player of the year, could not give his side a much-needed lifeline when he failed to ground the ball as he reached out for the line.
Wigan piled on the pressure as the half time hooter approached and, just as some heroic Saints defending looked to have kept the Challenge Cup winners at bay, they forced two more sets which allowed Pat Richards to finally find a way through in the left corner.
Michael Maguire's half time team talk clearly paid dividends as O'Loughlin scampered over shortly after the restart with Richards' second conversion reducing the deficit to two points.
However, any momentum they hoped to build from the breakthrough was lost almost immediately.
Lomax's powerful 30 metre burst set up Saints in a great position for Wellens to grab his second try before McCarthy-Scarsbrook dived over on the hour with Foster adding both conversions.
Wigan hit back again through Joel Tomkins's 64th minute try, which was completed by Richards' cool conversion, but they failed to breach a strong Saints defence which held firm to seal a first win of the season over their hosts.
First Utility Super League
Tue 30th Jun
Hull K R34 - 28Salford Red Devils
Wed 1st Jul
Wakefield Wildcats26 - 16Hull FC
Thu 2nd Jul
Warrington Wolves17 - 6Wigan Warriors
Fri 3rd Jul
Leeds Rhinos46 - 18St Helens
Sun 5th Jul
Huddersfield Giants0 - 0Hull K R
Hull FC0 - 0Wakefield Wildcats
Salford Red Devils0 - 0Catalans Dragons
Castleford Tigers0 - 0Widnes Vikings
Thu 9th Jul
Wigan WarriorsvsLeeds Rhinos
Fri 10th Jul
St HelensvsHuddersfield Giants
Sun 12th Jul
Hull FC0 - 0Castleford Tigers
Salford Red Devils0 - 0Hull K R
Wakefield Wildcats0 - 0Warrington Wolves
Widnes Vikings0 - 0Catalans Dragons
Thu 16th Jul
Warrington WolvesvsSt Helens
Fri 17th Jul
Hull K RvsHull FC
Leeds Rhinos0 - 0Salford Red Devils
Wigan Warriors0 - 0Widnes Vikings
Sat 18th Jul
Catalans DragonsvsHuddersfield Giants
Sun 19th Jul
Wakefield Wildcats0 - 0Castleford Tigers
Thu 23rd Jul
Hull FCvsWigan Warriors
Fri 24th Jul
St Helens0 - 0Hull K R
Sun 26th Jul
Huddersfield Giants0 - 0Wakefield Wildcats
Leeds Rhinos0 - 0Catalans Dragons
Widnes Vikings0 - 0Salford Red Devils
Castleford Tigers0 - 0Warrington Wolves