Gleeson's super for wonderful Wigan
Wigan 22 St Helens 10: Centre makes perfect start with quick-fire double against his old team as Warriors land Grand Final for first time in dozen years
Sunday 03 October 2010
Wigan ended a 12-year wait for a Super League title with a commanding performance, spearheaded by Martin Gleeson and Sam Tomkins.
Gleeson scored the first two tries and set up the third as the Warriors started the Grand Final in unstoppable style, while Tomkins was a recurring torment with his incursions from full-back. It meant Wigan won a trophy in Michael Maguire's first season as coach, dooming Saints to a fourth defeat in a row as Mick Potter ended his two-year stint in charge without silverware.
After a minute's silence in memory of Terry Newton which was, mysteriously, rather better observed at the St Helens end of Old Trafford, it was the Warriors who dominated the first 25 minutes and could have been further ahead than the 16 points they had on the board before Saints scored.
While they looked super sharp, Saints made some basic errors, starting with Sia Soliola putting a loose pass on the ground. Wigan pounced on that possession, moving the ball crisply to the right, where Sam Tomkins came into the line to release Gleeson – who is enough of a veteran of Grand Finals to have scored here for Saints against Bradford in 2002.
The former Great Britain centre has unearthed some of his old form at just the right time and, after 15 minutes that featured some desperate Saints defence against three consecutive sets, he was over again.
Sam Tomkins started the scoring thrust with a run that took him outside Jonny Lomax and Thomas Leuluai and Paul Deacon were in support to tee up the try for Gleeson.
Wigan surged clear when Deacon hoisted a high kick which Saints could not defuse. The ball went right yet again, with Gleeson this time turning try-maker with the scoring pass to Darrell Goulding, with Pat Richards adding his second goal.
Saints did not have an attack worthy of the name until the 24th minute, when Francis Meli was taken into touch by Goulding. They got on to the scoreboard soon after, however, when an offside penalty put them on the offensive and Jon Wilkin angled his run and pass to put the substitute forward, Andrew Dixon, over.
It was Keiron Cunningham's last game for Saints, but it was the introduction of James Roby in his place that coincided with Saints' revival to cut Wigan's half-time lead to 16-6.
The other worry for Wigan was the loss of Richards with an achillesinjury. Three minutes into the second half, Mark Riddell missed a penalty the Man of Steel would surelyhave kicked after Leuluai had the ball stripped from him on the line.
Saints rallied and created a couple of chances that they could not take, but after 52 minutes they were on the back foot again, thanks to the sublime self-confidence of Sam Tomkins. Taking man of the match Leuluai's pass, he seemed obliged to keep the ball moving. Instead, he took on the defence and reached through a two-man tackle to plant the ball over.
Saints' struggle to control Sam Tomkins saw Meli flatten him with a high tackle and a second penalty for a late challenge by Soliola gave Riddell an unmissable two points. Liam Farrell had a try disallowed for an obstruction, but the Warriors still closed in on the prize. The pressure told on Saints with some basic errors and petulant penalties. At least Saints managed one last gesture of defiance when, with seven minutes to play, Meli got over from Matty Smith's pass.
Wigan S Tomkins; Goulding, Gleeson, Carmont, Richards; Deacon, Leuluai; Fielden, McIlorum, Coley, Hansen, J.Tomkins, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used Paleaaesina, Riddell, Prescott, Farrell.
St Helens Wellens; Foster, Gidley, Meli, Lomax; Wilkin, Smith; Graham, Cunningham, Hargreaves, Soliola, Flannery, Puletua. Substitutes used Roby, Clough, Dixon, Emmitt.
Referee R.Silverwood (Mirfield).
What they said
Sean O'Loughlin (Wigan captain): "It's the best feeling. It's testament to all the players and all the coaches, and it's been a fantastic effort. We got points on the board to put them under pressure."
Michael Maguire (Wigan coach): "It's great to see them celebrating. This is a very special group and if they carry on working hard and doing the same things, then there's more to come."
Thomas Leuluai (Harry Sunderland Trophy winner): "It's awesome. We've worked hard for each other, through our highs and lows."
Mick Potter (St Helens coach): "We did some things we didn't practise for in the first 20 minutes, and started off on the back foot. You put yourselves under pressure (like that) and you have to come up with plays and do things you don't really want to do. We burned a lot of energy in those first 20 minutes. I wouldn't say it was won and lost there, but it contributed. When you get that far behind in a Grand Final, it's hard to come back. Keiron (Cunningham) has said a few words about how much he's enjoyed it. I think he'd like to carry on, but he knows he's had enough. I've tried my hardest for the club – the players have been fantastic over the last two years."
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