Saints end Noble's reign
St Helens 14 Wigan 10
Monday 05 October 2009
Brian Noble walked away from his job as Wigan coach with head held high on Saturday, after losing again to a side that knows how to win semi-finals.
It was the fifth defeat of Noble's tenure at that stage of the Challenge Cup and the Super League play-offs – and ultimately that is not good enough for a club with Wigan's aspirations.
No matter that he rescued them from the threat of relegation three years ago and has improved standards across the board.
Wigan are still not winning things. Hence the decision of the chairman, Ian Lenagan – made weeks ago but only announced on Saturday – that Noble must pursue his career elsewhere, probably at the Celtic Crusaders.
"We believe on balance that it is now time for change at Wigan, to progress to even higher levels and achieve the trophy-winning success which our fans rightly expect," he said after the match. It would not even have saved Noble's job if Wigan had broken their recent habit and reached the Grand Final at Old Trafford. The die was cast and Wigan will name their new coach on Wednesday.
The icy gap that has grown between chairman and coach was evident in their different assessments of their latest near-miss.
Noble spoke of his pride in the players' effort, the injustice of their defeat and their potential for the future.
Lenagan had his chance to share in those sentiments, but instead referred to it frostily as "a decent performance – but we're capable of better".
The chairman yearns for the days when Wigan lorded it over the likes of St Helens. They could have ended a win-less sequence at Knowsley Road that goes back to 2003, but in the end were not quite good enough.
One reason for that was the enduring mastery of Sean Long, another man taking his leave this weekend after agreeing his transfer from Saints to Hull.
Old Trafford will be a fitting swan-song, but this was his farewell to his adoring home crowd. It was not one of his very greatest games, but it can be added to the long, long list of extremely influential ones.
Not only did he score a try and make one, he was also responsible for two vital tackles – the latter a controversial drag into touch on Joel Tomkins when Wigan were threatening to salvage the game.
He might have been lucky to get away with that, but overall his Saints career has provided the sort of X-factor that Wigan crave.
St Helens: Wellens; Gardner, Gidley, Eastmond, Meli; Pryce,
Long; Graham, Cunningham, Puletua, Flannery, Wilkin, Gilmour, Clough. Substitutes used: Roby, Hargreaves, Clough, Fa'asavalu.
Wigan: Phelps; Roberts, Gleeson, Carmont, Richards; S Tomkins, Leuluai; Coley, Riddell, Prescott, J Tomkins, Hansen, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: Fielden, Paleaaesina, Flanagan, Mossop.
Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Manchester United vs Liverpool - I don't understand why Brendan Rodgers was not more attacking against Basel
Jesus Christ plays for Chelsea - that's what one in five children thinks
Transfer Talk: Nemanja Vidic to return to Manchester United; Hazard to leave Chelsea; Sunderland want Radamel Falcao
Frank Warren column: Don't bet on Amir Khan landing pay day against Floyd Mayweather
Manchester United transfer news: Kevin Strootman move edges closer
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food