Regan Grace scored a hat-trick to help St Helens inflict a 36-10 defeat on old enemy Wigan on Good Friday.
Adrian Lam made five changes to his Wigan side that lost at Wakefield Trinity last week. Sean O’Loughlin, Ben Flower, Joe Greenwood, Chris Hankinson and Zak Hardaker replaced Liam Paisley, Joe Shorrocks, Sam Powell, Dan Sarginson and Morgan Escare.
St Helens coach Justin Holbrook made just one change to his outfit that eased past Warrington last time out. Aaron Smith came in for Kyle Amor.
James Roby put Saints in an early lead, before Hardaker replied with a try for the hosts.
Wales international Regan Grace crossed the whitewash twice in the space of 10 minutes, which gave Holbrook’s men an 18-4 lead.
But George Williams reduced the deficit at half-time following a stunning break down the left side from Oliver Gildart. Hardaker’s conversion saw the score 18-10 in favour of St Helens at the interval.
Tommy Makinson extended Saints’ lead shortly after the restart, while Grace completed his hat-trick on the hour mark.
Lachlan Coote completed a near perfect individual display with 10 minutes to go as he sailed over for a try.
The game ended on a sour note though as Saints back-rower Dom Peyroux was sin-binned for a dangerous challenge on Jake Shorrocks, which forced the Warriors half-back to leave the field on a stretcher. Saints remain top of the table following a comprehensive 36-10 win over rivals Wigan.
Three talking points
Coote shows his class
Chants of “he’s the reason, we’re top of the league this season!” round around the North Stand. It’s safe to say Coote has made himself a firm fan favourite at St Helens.
He’s probably not the only reason Saints are top this year, but he is one of the reasons. Their entire backline have been phenomenal so far in 2019 and their forward pack is immense. It would be easier to say they don’t have any weaknesses.
The Scotland international is certainly in with a shout of making the Great Britain squad this autumn for the Lions’ tour of the southern hemisphere. He’s a classy operator and possesses a fine kicking game.
England’s future forward pack is promising
People sometimes wonder what England will do when the likes of O’Loughlin, Sam Burgess, James Graham and Chris Hill retire but the answers were clearly on show at the DW Stadium.
Wigan have a number of promising forwards but Ollie Partington and Morgan Smithies stood up in particular against a very impressive Saints pack. Is Partington Wigan’s number 13 when O’Loughlin retires? He’s one of the hardest working forwards in the competition, while Smithies oozes class and even though he has only played a couple of first-team games, he could play NRL one day.
As for Saints, what more can be said about Morgan Knowles? He is one hell of a forward and although he isn’t the first name that excites Saints fans when they look at the teamsheet, he is certainly appreciated by Holbrook. His club and England Knights team-mate, Matty Lees, also has a massive future. England are set to have brilliant packs in the 2021 and 2025 World Cups.
St Helens set for silverware
Whether it is the Super League Grand Final or the Challenge Cup, Saints are rightly red hot favourites to lift a major trophy in 2019.
They fell short last year as they lost in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup and Super League, but that might have done them good in the long run. They know what it feels like to fall at the final hurdle, so it might give them added motivation.
They eased past second-placed Warrington the week before Easter and not many teams look close to stopping them this season. Could they do the double? Or treble? Or just the one? Who knows, but it would be disappointing if they didn’t win a major this year because they are THAT good.
Line-ups & ratings
Wigan: Hardaker (8); Davies (6), Hankinson (6), Gildart (7), Burgess (8); Williams (7), Jake Shorrocks (6); Flower (7), Leuluai (8), Navarrete (6), Isa (6), Smithies (7), Partington (7). Subs: O’Loughlin (7), Tautai (7), Bullock (6), Greenwood (6).
Tries: Hardaker, Williams Goals: Hardaker 1/2
St Helens: Coote (9); Makinson (8), Naiqama (7), Percival (7), Grace (8); Lomax (8), Richardson (6); Walmsley (8), Roby (7), Thompson (8), Taia (7), Peyroux (8), Knowles (8). Subs: Paulo (7), McCarthy-Scarsbrook (6), Lees (7), Smith (6).
Tries: Roby, Grace 3, Makinson, Coote Goals: Coote 6/8
St Helens were simply too strong for Wigan on the day. The Warriors had a strong dig in the first half, with it only being 18-10 at the break, but it was all Saints in the second half.
Coote is a special player for Saints and looks to be one of the buys of the season in Super League, but Saints just don’t seem to have any weak points. You know your pack is strong when the likes of Jack Ashworth, Kyle Amor and Luke Douglas aren’t making the matchday squads.
As for Wigan, they looked pretty good in the first half but it still wasn’t Wigan. It’s probably fair to highlight Wigan’s crippling injury list and it doesn’t look to get any easier with Davies and Shorrocks leaving the field, but let’s hope they have a turn of luck on the injury front soon. It’s never nice to see anyone sidelined through injury.