The resilience of St Helens withstood some scintillating attacking rugby from Warrington as the Wolves yet again failed to beat their neighbours. Warrington's record against Saints in the Super League now stands at one win in 34 attempts, but they will rarely play better with the ball in hand than they did last night, with a glorious hat-trick from Kevin Penny the highlight.
The trouble was that they failed to kill off Saints who had their own, less likely three-try hero in Paul Clough. They won a match of breathtaking intensity despite injuries to Paul Sculthorpe, Maurie Fa'Asavalu and Kyle Eastmond that left them with only one useable substitute.
"It was a gritty, tough resilient display," said their coach, Daniel Anderson. "We got a huge amount from every player on the field."
Warrington took the initial advantage with Penny's first try from Matt King's pass, but tries from Clough and Ade Gardner, both from dummy half-passes from Kieran Cunningham, gave Saints the edge.
King, surprisingly quiet since arriving from Australia with a huge reputation, set up Penny for an equally well-taken second and Warrington were on their way to a deserved half-time lead until Michael Monaghan threw a speculative long pass that was picked off by Francis Meli, who went 70 metres to score.
The best score of Penny's hat-trick came when he beat Gardner beautifully on the outside two minutes into the second half, and Warrington finally looked to be on their way to a victory over Saints when Lee Briers and Ben Westwood set up Jon Clarke.
Saints simply refused to be beaten by the Wolves, however, and Clough typified that attitude when he twisted his way over the line.
Sean Long's pass gave Gardner his second to bring Saints level, with Long's kick just creeping over the bar to give them the lead. Clough's hat-trick after King had dropped Long's kick confirmed that yet again it was not going to be Warrington's night.
There was still time for Penny to have a fourth try disallowed, for King's forward pass, and for Louis Anderson to lose the ball near the line.
"It was a fantastic game of rugby league, a Warrington-Saints classic and we deserved a little bit more from it," said Warrington's Paul Cullen. They will get their chance again in two weeks' time in the Challenge Cup; surely, they will be telling themselves, their day must come soon.
Warrington: Hicks, Riley, Martin Gleeson, King, Penny, Briers, Monaghan, Morley, Clarke, Rauhihi, L Anderson, Westwood, V Anderson. Substitutes used: Mark Gleeson, Parker, Bracek, Harrison.
St Helens: Gidley, Gardner, Flannery, Talau, Meli, Roby, Long, Cayless, Cunningham, Graham, Gilmour, Sculthorpe, Wilkin. Substitutes used: Eastman, Fa'asavalu, Hargreaves, Clough.
Referee: Andy Kline (Keighley).Reuse content