Millennium Magic: Meli seals comeback as Saints share spoils

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Wigan began the defence of their Super League title with a draw as a St Helens fightback lifted the Millennium Magic weekend above the mediocre. Otherwise it was an undistinguished day in Cardiff as a difficult surface, over-officious refereeing, a lack of atmosphere and rusty play prevented the season-opening showpiece from rising beyond the mundane. The day attracted a gate of more than 30,000.

Wigan and Saints – eventually locked at 16-16 – were not immune. The first 10 minutes were all about Saints battering at the Wigan line. As soon as Wigan mounted some pressure they scored, Ryan Hoffman going over after Josh Charnley had turned the ball inside. Saints went close through James Roby and Michael Shenton but the only other points of the half came when Harrison Hansen chased a Sam Tomkins kick to score.

In the second half Wigan scored, through George Carmont, as soon as they spent any time in Saints' territory. Saints got on the scoreboard when Roby's break set up Jon Wilkin. Tony Puletua got another and Francis Meli squeezed in at the corner to tie the scores. Jamie Foster could not convert and Tomkins and Kyle Eastmond missed late drop-goals.

For Saints' coach, Royce Simmons, it was a timely boost after the trauma of a dash home to Australia on the death of his father. "It's been the worst week of my life, losing my best mate," he said. "I'm happy to have got a point after being so far behind. It was a courageous effort."

Warrington lost to Huddersfield and saw key players injured. The Wolves, many people's choice to push Wigan this year, went down 28-18 and finished without Matt King and Lee Briers, both carried off after what seemed to be innocuous incidents, King for a scan on knee ligaments, Briers with concussion. Chris Bridge, Mike Cooper and Scott Grix also picked up injuries.

Danny Brough was the hero for the Giants, with two tries and four goals, though Warrington took the lead with a try from Joel Monaghan. They soon trailed to tries by Keal Carlile and Brough's first, a 90-metre breakaway. The Giants went further ahead through Darrell Griffin and Shaun Lunt. Late Wolves tries by Ben Westwood and Ryan Atkins were split by another dazzling score from Brough.

Last year's bottom club, Catalan Dragons, were blown away by Luke Gale. The Harlequins stand-off scored two tries and kicked a conversion and a drop-goal in an 11-4 win. A 78th-minute try from Damien Blanch was little consolation for the Dragons, who had the centre Setaimata Sa carried off in a neck brace.

Castleford then faced Wakefield, who had been bought out of administration the day before. There is a defiance about Trinity, and after they had gone behind to a try from Joe Arundel they led through Julien Rinaldi and Dale Ferguson. Cas led at the break thanks to Brett Ferres, Nick Youngquest and Dean Widders. Tries from Rangi Chase and Adam Milner stretched the lead before Ferguson and Luke George went in for Wakefield. Cas won 40-20, Paul Jackson and Widders scoring late on.