Wigan saved the best – and even a little sample of the worst – until last at the Etihad Stadium last night.
What was billed as Super League's Magic Weekend lived up to its title as the competition leaders brought out their full range of tricks to bamboozle their biggest rivals.
It briefly turned into a different sort of spectacle entirely in the second half, when a scrum erupted in a rash of confrontations resulting in three players – two from Wigan – being sent off.
If it did nothing else, it helped to keep the score down. Five tries in the first 25 minutes ensured that they would beat Saints – who are getting along fine against everyone else – for the third time in six weeks.
Two of those tries were scored by the irresistible Sam Tomkins, starting in the sixth minute, when Brett Finch broke away past Sia Soliola and the most gifted player in the game reacted instantly to get up in support to seal the move.
Four minutes later, Soliola – normally a rugged defender – was implicated again as Gareth Hock brushed past him for the second.
Audacious overhead passes from Thomas Leuluai and Darrell Goulding then set up Josh Charnley for his first, before Tomkins' sleight of hand and killing acceleration produced the try of the half.
Goulding stood in the tackle to send Sean O'Loughlin over and, even after Saints got one back through Paul Clough, the Warriors had the last word before the half-time break with Charnley's touch-down from Goulding's clever little kick.
It was sumptuous, if rather one-sided, entertainment to end a weekend that attracted a record aggregate crowd of 63,716, apparently justifying the League's policy of "keep it local" after past forays to Cardiff and Edinburgh.
It got worse for Saints when George Carmont, not renowned for his blinding pace, went 80 metres at the start of the second half.
The complexion of the game changed radically when that scrum turned into a rolling brawl. When the dust settled, the referee, Ben Thaler, showed the red card to Hock, his team-mate, Chris Tuson, and Saints' Shaun Magennis.
"It was a tough call and it killed the game," said the Wigan coach, Shaun Wane, who not surprisingly preferred to focus on his side's class in the first 25 minutes. "That was the real us," he said. "Now I want us to keep it going for longer."
Saints' Mike Rush was forced to agree. "For the first 25 minutes they were excellent," he said. "But defensively we need to aim up. It just wasn't good enough."
The rest of the game was notable for a terrific long-range try from Saints' prop Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and another score from his captain, Paul Wellens.
Overall, though, Wigan defended well with their 11 men and poached a final try of their own through Liam Farrell. "We've got skilful people and we've got tough people," said Wane.
St Helens Wellens; Gardner, Shenton, Wheeler, Meli; Hohaia, Lomax; Perry, Roby, Laffranchi, Soliola, Flannery, Wilkin. Substitutes used Clough, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Puletua, Magennis.
Wigan Tomkins; Charnley, Goulding, Carmont, Gelling; Finch, Leuluai; Dudson, McIlorum, Mossop, Hansen, Hock, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used Lima, Farrell, Tuson, Lauaki.
Referee B Thaler (Wakefield).Reuse content