There was only one possible winner as a full-strength St Helens side took on a very young and inexperienced Wigan Warriors in the first original derby of the 2020 season. Wigan coach Adrian Lam had clearly prioritised the weekends Challenge Cup semi-final game against the Leeds Rhinos whereas Saints had no such distraction as they focussed wholly on their league position.
The bookies gave the Warriors no chance at all, handing them a twenty-eight point start on the coupon. Everything pointed to a Saints massacre as Wigan debuted six players including the son of league legend Ellery Hanley.
James Graham was the victim of a friendly fire incident just three minutes in, clashing heads with Alex Walmsley and needing a new shirt and half a tub of Vaseline before being taped up to stem the blood flow.
Just after ten minutes the brave Wigan defence finally succumbed to the Saints attack with Alex Walmsley taking the ball to metres short of the line and crashing over for a four-pointer. Lachlan Coote added the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
A late tackle by San Halsall, on kicker Coote, after fourteen saw the Wigan youngster sin-binned and within seconds Jack Welsby crossed in the right corner off a Jonny Lomax miss-out pass. Coote added the extras, the writing already on the wall for the Warriors.
On seventeen, following a spilled ball after a kick-through, Saints moved the ball wide left with Regan Grace being the man to take a difficult Lomax pass to juggle and score in the corner. Coote added the conversion, Saints scoring at a point a minute.
But Wigan found a way to stop the rot, taking the game back to Saints, and they managed to successfully defend their line until the half time hooter.
Five minutes after the restart Kyle Amor dropped the ball over the line when he looked sure to extend Saints lead. But on fifty minutes Morgan Knowles made no mistake as he went over by the right upright off a Theo Fages pass. Coote added the conversion for 24-0.
On fifty-five James Bentley was on hand to take a Fages pass and rip through the Wigan defence for a score from twenty metres. Coote kicked a simple goal for a 30-0 lead. All that remained was to determine the winning margin.
Lomax was sin-binned for a clumsy tackle on sixty-eight but it was too late for Wigan to make their superior numbers count.
It was clear, even before kick-off, that there was only going to be one winner. The only debate was over what kind of defence the young Wigan Warriors side would be able to muster and whether they would be able to cause Saints any issues when they went on the offensive. While Saints dominated on the field there might be some disappointment that they didn’t record a larger win than the one they achieved in returning to the top of the table.
Welsby got his second on sixty-five taking a Naiqama pass to cross the line in the corner and round closer to the sticks to give Lachlan Coote his sixth conversion of the night. With three minutes remaining Grace sidestepped to tacklers in a fifty metre run to score under the sticks. Coote added the conversion for 42-0 to round off a good night for the league leaders.
Wigan Warriors: Hanley, Burgess J, Bibby, McDonnell, Hankinson, Halsall (SB on 13), Smith, Shorrocks, Bullock, Bourouh, Byrne, Greenwood, Rushton, Wells. Subs: Clark, Flower, Kilner, Pearce-Paul.
St Helens: Coote (7G), Grace (2T), Simm, Naiqama, Welsby (2T), Lomax (SB on 68), Fages, Walmsley (T), Roby, Lees, Knowles (T), Bentley (T), Graham. Subs: Taia, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Dodd.
Referee: Ben Thaler.
Half Time: 0-18.
Full Time: 0-42.
Venue: A J Bell Stadium, Salford.