Richards clocks up points as Wigan take turn at top

St Helens 10 Wigan 32
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The Independent Online

Just about everybody else has had a turn this season, but the reigning champions went to the top of Super League with a commanding display against their oldest rivals.

Saints were unable to cope with the Warriors' physical intensity and relentless kicking game. Apart from losing ground in the race for play-off places, they also lost their winger, Jamie Foster, with a first-half head injury that required 22 stitches, which meant a reshuffle and most of a game in the centres for the outward-bound Kyle Eastmond. Foster returned before the end but neither Eastmond nor anyone else could produce a spark for them last night.

The Wigan coach, Michael Maguire, called it "one of the best performances of my time here," and had particular praise for his stand-off Brett Finch. "He's been working very hard, it was his best game for us – and I know there's more to come from him too."

Royce Simmons admitted that his Saints had been outplayed. "They beat us all over the park, because they just had too much ball," he said.

Pat Richards and Lee Mossop made early breaks that could have led to something, even before Wigan drew first blood after 14 minutes. Paul Wellens uncharacteristically fumbled a high kick and from that gift of possession Mossop forced his way over from Thomas Leuluai's short pass.

Richards added the conversion and a penalty when Sam Tomkins was held down by Chris Flannery, but it was a couple of minutes on either side of the half hour that tilted the match in Wigan's direction.

Richards decisively outjumped his opposite number, Tom Makinson, to take Paul Deacon's high kick and touch down. Saints had hardly digested that when another bomb, this time from Richards, caused further chaos in their ranks. Joel Tomkins picked up the pieces and, after due examination for evidence of a knock-on, the try stood. Richards landed his fourth goal for a 20-point lead.

Wigan will still have been conscious of failing to score a single point in the second half of their last two matches. They ended that unwanted record six minutes after the break, when Michael McIlorum's pacy little break sent Finch over for a try.

Saints got onto the scoreboard when Tony Puletua crashed over for a try which Makinson converted in Foster's absence. Makinson also added a second try to Saints' quest for respectability, but that was all it ever was, with Jeff Lima underlining Wigan's superiority with a late try from Finch's kick.

Wigan, despite some recent hiccups, are very much back in the contest for first place.

St Helens: Wellens; Makinson, Shenton, Meli, Foster; Gaskell, Lomax; Graham, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Wilkin, Soliola, Puletua.

Substitutes used: Eastmond, Flannery, Ashurst, Magennis.

Wigan: S Tomkins; Charnley, J Tomkins, Carmont, Richards; Finch, Deacon; Lima, Leuluai, Mossop, Hansen, Hoffman, O'Loughlin.

Substitutes used: McIlorum, Coley, Prescott, Tuson.

Referee: T Alibert (France)