St Helens maintained their hoodoo over Warrington, fighting off a second half comeback to win 28-18 at a sodden Knowsley Road.
In front of a sell out 17,500 crowd and continuous rain, Saints put themselves in to a winning position 20-4, but the Wolves clawed their way back to
within two points before Ade Gardner‘s try made the game safe for the home side.
Cheered on by almost 6,000 travelling supporters, Warrington fancied their chances of recording a first win at Knowsley Road since 1994, having lost just one game this season.
But the game was just five minutes old when Saints scrum half Kyle Eastmond, who won his personal duel with opposite number Richie Myler, ducked through two tacklers and evaded the Warrington full-back to go in under the posts and get Mick Potter’s men on the board.
Both teams then battled it out in midfield, with both sets of forwards trying to gain the upper hand. As the half went on, Warrington got the stronger, and after forcing a drop out, their pressure finally told when Scott Grix slipped through a gap in the defence to score unopposed. A kickable conversion was missed by the disappointing Myler, so Saints retained a two point cushion.
The home side then started to make yards up the middle, with the introduction of James Roby helping to speed them up around the play the ball. And they extended their advantage when Eastmond’s high bomb wasn’t dealt with by the Warrington defence, eventually bouncing back off Wolves winger Chris Riley‘s legs and in to the path of Jon Wilkin, who dived on the ball to touch down. Eastmond converted and Saints went in 12-4 to the good at half time.
The first try of the second half seemed to be crucial, and it was Saints that grabbed it. A few errors from Warrington cost them field position, and when Eastmond’s towering kick was knocked on by Richie Mathers, Saints spread the ball outwide and created an overlap for Gardner to slide in in the corner. Eastmond converted from the touchline, and then added a penalty five minutes later to stretch Saints’ lead to 20-4.
But from the subsequent kick-off, Roby let the ball slip under his foot and in to touch to set Warrington up with excellent field position, and the took advantage, as Matt King found the right angle to burst through the Saints defence and touch down, and set the ball rolling for the visitors. Chris Bridge missed the conversion but the Wolves were within two scores.
The first came just three minutes later when Michael Monaghan‘s kick wasn’t dealt with by Gardner and Ben Harrison was the beneficiary as he touched down the loose ball, Bridge converted and Warrington were well in with a chance at 20-14.
The visitors had the momentum and buoyed by the vocal travelling support, they marched their way down the field, helped by a couple of penalties from referee Richard Silverwood. After Monaghan went close, they spread the ball wide right and quick hands from Bridge created an opening for Chris Hicks who finished in the corner. Bridge couldn’t convert from a difficult position, but it was game on.
But Saints dug deep and wrestled the initiative back in their favour when Matt Gidley fed Gardner for his second try, and Eastmond’s touchline conversion made it a two score game to boost the home side, while taking the wind out of the Wolves sails.
The final quarter turned scrappy, with both sides guilty of a number of errors as the conditions took their toll. Eastmond’s conversion looked to have been the final blow for Warrington, and they never put together enough sustained pressure to get back in to the match, and the diminuative scrum half rubbed salt in the wounds by landing a penalty, after a drop out had gone out on the full, on the hooter, to move Saints level on points with Warrington in the Super League table.