St Helens 18-25 Warrington

Ten years of painful defeats at the hands of St Helens have finally been dispatched to the record books after steely Warrington won a cracker at the Stobart Stadium.

The Wolves only overcame Hull Kingston Rovers with a try ninety seconds from time last week, but in truth they bossed this encounter for well over an hour, nulling every attacking option that St Helens came up with.

Leading the way for the visitors was two try stand-off Lee Briers who also landed a 72nd minute drop-goal that put enough daylight between the teams but Brett Hodgson, Joel Monaghan and Louis Anderson also excelled. Perhaps the best performance of the lot came from Paul Wood. The veteran forward rolled back the years with a series of thunderous drives and became something of an offload machine.

Warrington gained the upper hand early on, forcing St Helens to kick from deep. Saints then gave a penalty away and after Ben Westwood went close on the right side, play came left for Briers to shoot through the smallest of holes in the defence. As defenders closed in, he reached out to score and Hodgson added the first of four goals to make it 6-0.

Saints looked to respond and came close at the other end when a forceful surge from Sia Soliola was held up in-goal.

James Roby looked to punish the defence but Warrington repelled each attack and fashioned the next break when a loose pass by Michael Monaghan ended up in the arms of David Solomona and Ryan Atkins handed Chris Riley a brief running chance.

A 40-20 kick from Monaghan soon had the Wolves on the front foot again and they stretched the defence on the left and right before Hodgson made a split second decision to kick for the posts and Richie Myler pounced for the try.

Another Warrington foray in the 20th minute brought a third try when Briers kick was half charged down by the defence and the half-back snatched the bouncing ball and went through for Hodgson to make it 18-0.

St Helens stepped up their attack and forced a succession of drop outs without obtaining points. Roby was held up on the half hour and Lee Gaskell could only look on in disappointment after some wonderful handling from Jonny Lomax came to nothing. Even the usual dependable hands of James Graham let him down close to the line.

Sensing the game was still in the balance, Briers attempted a drop-goal but the effort skewed wide of the posts.

A new found defensive strength from Warrington forced St Helens into some uncharacteristic errors and the Wolves went in at half-time with their 18-0 advantage intact.

St Helens threatened at the start of the second half but again Warrington tackled to frustrate them and as the kicking of Briers and Michael Monaghan took over, the hosts were forced deeper and deeper into their own territory.

This frustrated Saints and instead of playing the game through the forwards, Kyle Eastmond and company began to experiment with looping passes that became increasingly difficult to take as the rain came down. Gaskell then went through the horrors where despite best efforts, everything went wrong for 15 minutes. One error gifted the Wolves possession inside their opponents twenty metre line and after Wood dragged the defence in with an aggressive charge, Myler scooped a pass up from his bootlaces and Anderson was at his shoulder to take a short ball and crash over. Hodgson made it 24-0 after 53 minutes and Saints coughed the ball up in response.

Eventually, St Helens did take a chance and were rewarded when Michael Shenton held off a couple of tacklers to go in at the corner after 67 minutes. Lomax struck a wonderful conversion to make it 24-6 before Briers fired the Wolves further ahead with a drop goal.

Two tries in the final five minutes saw St Helens finish well with Gaskell sending Chris Flannery into space before the stand-off claimed a try of his own. Jamie Foster added two goals but the night was Warrington’s and their fans in a packed West Stand celebrated long after the final whistle.

ST HELENS: Wellens, Gardner, Shenton, Lomax, Meli; Gaskell, Eastmond; Graham, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Flannery, Soliola, Wilkin. Subs: Puletua, Moore, Clough, Foster.

Tries: Shenton 67, Flannery 76, Gaskell 79.
Goals: Lomax 1/1, Foster 2/2.

WARRINGTON: Hodgson, Riley, Atkins, Blythe, Joel Monaghan; Briers, Myler; Morley, Michael Monaghan, Carvell, Anderson, Westwood, Solomona. Subs: Harrison, Higham, Wood, Evans.

Tries: Briers 2, 20, Myler 16, Anderson 53.
Goals: Hodgson 4/4, Briers 1 Dg.

Attendance: 10,514

Referee: Mr Phil Bentham.
Penalties: 7-4.

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