Warrington will go to Leeds for the first round of the Super League play-offs, rather than the marginally less daunting destination of Bradford, after squandering a 16-point lead over the league-leading Saints.
Finishing sixth, behind Salford, probably counts as a disappointing season for the Wolves, but they showed in fits and starts yesterday that they could still be a danger.
"We've attempted to take on the most adventurous attacking side in the competition and run them off the park and we very nearly did it," said their coach, Paul Cullen.
The first 40 minutes represented the proverbial half of two quarters. Warrington raced away with three tries to hint that only their second Super League win over Saints was on the cards, only to fall in a heap. Paul Wood put them into the lead from Lee Briers' pass, that try followed in quick succession by efforts from Richie Barnett and Ben Westwood.
As Huddersfield found out in the Challenge Cup final, however, it can be a bad idea to poke Saints with a sharp stick and Warrington were swept aside by five tries in 20 minutes. John Wilkin started it all, with Paul Wellens and Ade Gardner scoring two apiece. With Jamie Lyon kicking four goals as well as putting Gardner in for his two tries Warrington's early lead was soon just a memory.
Remarkably, they started the second half almost as well as they had the first, with tries from Toa Kohe-love and Martin Gleeson, the latter taking advantage of Willie Talau's slip.
But Talau almost instantly made amends with a try that restored Saints' control, their position strengthened by Vinnie Anderson's effort after 66 minutes. There was time for Chris Bridge to revive Warrington's interest but Saints, who have a two-week rest to get over flu in the camp before facing Hull, held on.
Warrington: Riley; Fa'afili, Martin Gleeson, Kohe-Love, Barnett; Bridge, Briers; Wood, Sullivan, Rauhihi, Swann, Wainwright, Westwood. Substitutes used: Penny, Mark Gleeson, Parker, Cooper.
St Helens: Wellens; Gardner, Lyon, Talau, Meli; Pryce, Long; Cayless, Cunningham, P Anderson, Gilmour, Wilkin, Bennett. Substitutes used: Roby, V Anderson, Graham, Fa'asavalu.
Referee: A Klein (Keighley).
* In a tense end-of-the-season game at the Galpharm Stadium Bradford's late rally beat their courageous hosts, Huddersfield, 42-30 to take fourth place in the table. The Giants staged a remarkable second-half comeback with a try-scoring flurry and took the lead with eight minutes to go, but in the end the Bulls' power, pace and determination proved conclusive, Michael Withers and Marcus St Hilaire scoring two tries each.Reuse content