Warrington's man of the match, Ben Westwood, suffered the agonies of going so close to ending the most one-sided local rivalry in Super League. The Wolves have not beaten St Helens since 2001 but they would have had at least a share of this one if Westwood's attempt to convert his own second try had gone over, five minutes from time, instead of drifting inches wide.
Tony Smith, the Warrington coach, refused to blame Westwood for his one miss of the match. "Benny has been kicking very very well for us," he said. "I feel for him. He had a superb game. I thought he was the best player on the field."
Saints had their own hero in the novice goal-kicking wing Jamie Foster, as they moved level with Warrington on points and, inadvertently, made as good as certain that Wigan will take the League Leaders' Shield.
It was a pulsating, fluctuating match in which neither side held anything back for next weekend's Challenge Cup semi-finals, but it was one from which the Wolves should have taken something. Mind you, there had been plenty of occasions in the past nine years when the same could have been said. The challenge, as the Wolves have found out, is turning potential into results against top teams.
Warrington began as though this was their night, playing with a breathless tempo, drawing penalties and forcing mistakes. It was typical of recent exchanges between these two clubs, however, that Saints should score on their first attack. James Graham changed the angle and Chris Flannery's pass allowed Matty Ashurst to muscle over. Foster kicked the goal and was close to a second try when Graham opened up the defence again. After 17 minutes, Foster was over, taking Leon Pryce's long pass after James Roby had created another hole.
The Wolves needed something different to get them back into the game and they got it from two substitutes, David Solomona somehow flipping the ball out of a tackle on the line and Paul Wood plunging over, although there looked to be a doubt about the grounding. Three minutes later there was a reprise, Wood this time getting the ball late out of the tackle and another replacement, Jon Clarke, scoring the try. Westwood's conversion put Warrington ahead.
Francis Meli, playing at centre, scored from a scrum move to put Saints in front again, but the half ended with the Wolves within two points, after Flannery pulled back Chris Riley and Westwood kicked a long-range penalty.
Warrington started the second half by conceding a flurry of penalties and they were almost punished by Paul Clough wrestling his way over. Ten minutes after the break, however, they recaptured the lead when Westwood scored at the foot of the post and kicked the easy conversion. Almost immediately, Roby equalised after brilliant work by Jon Wilkin and Paul Wellens and Foster reclaimed the lead for Saints.
He was also on the spot when Michael Monaghan's wild pass found Wilkin in what was ruled by the video referee, Steve Ganson, to be an on-side position. The tireless Westwood came up with his second from Lee Briers' kick, but could not add the goal. Monaghan, Matt King and Briers all threatened after that but yet again the Wolves fell just short.
Warrington Mathers; Hicks, King, Atkins, Riley; Briers, Myler; Morley, Monaghan, Carvell, L. Anderson, Westwood, Harrison. Substitutes used: Clarke, Wood, Solomona, V Anderson.
St Helens Wellens; Foster, Flannery, Meli, Gardner; Pryce, Moore; Graham, Roby, Hargreaves, Wilkin, Ashurst, Magennis. Substitutes used: Cunningham, Puletua, Clough, Emmitt.
Referee T Alibert (Toulouse).
WIN! Tickets to the Challenge Cup semi-finals
The Independent on Sunday has joined forces with The Co-operative, sponsor of The Co-operative Championships and Conference, and official partner of the RFL, to give you the chance to win a pair of tickets to the game of your choice in the semi-finals of rugby league's longest-running competition. St Helens play Leeds Rhinos at the Galpharm Stadium in Huddersfield next Saturday and Catalans Dragons take on Warrington Wolves at the Stobart Stadium in Widnes on Sunday 8 August. Eight winners will each receive a pair of tickets to the semi-final of their choice. To stand a chance of winning, answer this question:
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