Wigan's former big occasion match-winner, Kevin Iro, turned on his old club with a hat-trick of tries as St Helens inflicted their first Super League defeat of the season. There were other outstanding performances from the likes of Paul Wellens, Tommy Martyn, Sean Long and Kieron Cunningham, but Iro was the destroyer in chief, completing a miserable day for his ex-New Zealand Test coach, Frank Endacott.
While Endacott was licking his wounds after watching the Kiwis thrashed by Australia, Saints ran away in the last 15 minutes at Knowsley Road yesterday to defeat his club side almost as resoundingly. By contrast, Ian Millward has not tasted defeat since taking over from Ellery Hanley as Saints' coach and this latest victory was all the more creditable for having been achieved without a fistful of injured internationals.
"It wasn't just the win, it was the quality of the win. It was outstanding," Millward said.
It did not start particularly well, with Julian O'Neill missing a tackle on Andy Farrell to allow Paul Johnson to open the scoring after three minutes. However, O'Neill made up for his error by swooping for Saints' first try when Martyn's wild pass came back off Mick Cassidy and Iro claimed his first when Wellens did astonishingly well to squeeze his pass out of the tackle.
Saints were in control by half-time when Cunningham's drive set up Long to put Martyn over and Wigan would have been in even deeper trouble if Iro had not had a try disallowed after the video referee spotted a ball-stealing infringement in the build-up.
Saints appeared to have squandered two further chances to consolidate after the break when Long, who finished with seven goals, missed an easy penalty and when Chris Joynt charged through only to waste the opportunity with a rash kick.
In between, Simon Haughton sent Kris Radlinski in for a try that briefly brought Wigan dangerously close to Saints' heels. But Long's penalty edged them further ahead and after Willie Peters had gone for an interception, Iro scored his second straight from the scrum. "When I came here, it was suggested to me that Kevin was very lazy both on and off the field," Millward said. "But he hasn't missed a session or a match and he's a real handful."
Iro completed his hat-trick after a strong diagonal run by Sean Hoppe and Martyn went side-stepping through for his own second in the last minute.
Endacott's stand-in, Dean Bell, had nothing but bad news for his boss when he phoned him last night. Apart from the extent of this defeat, all three of Wigan's front-line centres are likely to miss Monday's game against Castleford, Gary Connolly with a broken thumb, Johnson with a dislocated shoulder and Steve Renouf with concussion.
St Helens: Wellens; C Smith, Iro, Hoppe, Sullivan; Martyn, Long; Perelini, Cunningham, O'Neill, Tuilagi, Stankevitch, Joynt. Substitutes used: Nickle, Hall, Henare, Bennett.
Wigan Warriors: Radlinski; Dallas, Johnson, Renouf, Robinson; T Smith, Peters; O'Connor, Newton, Cowie, Cassidy, Betts, Farrell. Substitutes used: Mestrov, Gilmour, Haughton, Connolly,
Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).
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