St Helens 46 Wigan 10: Rejected Long inspires Saints to rout Warriors

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The Independent Online

Before the match fans paid tribute to Eric Ashton; afterwards it was another former Wigan player who was on everyone's lips.

Sean Long, the St Helens scrum-half, returned from a two-week absence to inspire a fabulous derby victory. The international, discarded by his home-town club Wigan as a youngster, scored a try and four goals and exploited the Warrior's loss of full-back Pat Richards by tormenting the visiting side with a range of intelligent and measured kicks.

Wigan had not won at Knowsley Road since 2003, and never looked like ending that unwanted record. After a minute's applause for former Wigan captain and St Helens' chairman Ashton, who died on Thursday, the home side wasted no time in getting on with business.

If Brian Noble's complaint this week about the high number of penalties in the opening few weeks was an attempt to influence referee Richard Silverwood, it did not work. His Wigan side were penalised 10 times in the opening half and had Mickey Higham sent to the sin bin, during which St Helens took advantage of their numerical advantage to score two tries.

A flick pass from Leon Pryce found Willie Talau in space and, after Long had kicked a penalty, Matt Gidley raced over to make it 10-0. Higham's yellow card for interference was punished by tries from James Graham and Paul Wellens, both converted by Long.

A thunderous tackle by Wigan's Thomas Leuluai on Maurie Fa'asavalu hinted at the visitor's fighting spirit that produced rewards early in the second-half when Mike McIlorum crossed from short-range.

Normal service was soon resumed, Long crossing from his own grubber-kick and then sending Francis Meli over with a cut-out pass to make it 32-6.

Perhaps with one eye on Monday's game against Huddersfield, Saints' coach Daniel Anderson brought Long off for the final quarter, but they never let up.

Stylish tries by Leon Pryce and Meli sandwiched a consolation effort by Wigan's George Carmont before Kyle Eastmond turned on the afterburners to score from halfway.

St Helens: Wellens; Gardner, Gidley, Talau, Meli; Pryce, Long; Hargreaves, Roby, Graham, Gilmour, Flannery, Wilkin. Substitutes not used: Bennett, Clough, Fa'asavalu, Eastmond.

Wigan: Richards; Calderwood, Goulding, Carmont, Colbon; Barrett, Leuluai; Fielden, Higham, Coley, Hansen, Bailey, O'Loughlin. Substitutes not used: Paleaaesina, McIlorum, Tomkins, O'Carroll.

Referee: R Silverwood (Murfield).

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