Wigan put up sterner resistance than an outsider unaware of their historic rivalry might expect from the bottom club in Super League playing the top, but the gap separating them from St Helens was too wide to bridge last night.
Whether it was a declaration of faith in the 19-year-old scrum-half, Michael Dobson, brought in this week to add some missing organisation, or just the fact that St Helens were in town, there was a surprising amount of optimism among Wigan fans that this would be their night. Dobson immediately improved Wigan's kicking game, but it still took two good efforts from their full-back, Chris Ashton, to keep Saints out, clearing Willie Talau's kick and then making a crucial tackle on Lee Gilmour.
As in a number of recent Super League games, it was a long but enthralling wait for the first points. When they came, they came to Saints after Sean O'Loughlin's fumble. Sean Long stepped in to dummy-half and hit Jamie Lyon with his pass, the centre diving low to cross the line in a two-man tackle.
Lyon added the goal and a penalty for offside. Wigan continued to plug away, although the closest they came was when Scott Logan was held up over the line. Saints would have gone further ahead if Paul Sculthorpe, of all people, had not knocked on with the line open. Soon, though,O'Loughlin scooped the ball straight into the arms of Francis Meli, who scored with ease.
Pat Richards was brought back for Nathan McAvoy's forward pass at the start of the second-half, before Danny Orr's tackle denied Jon Wilkin a try for Saints.
O'Loughlin's luck changed when he got a back-handed pass to Richards, who went over in the corner . But Saints stretched their lead again when Logan went high on Paul Anderson and Lyon kicked his fourth goal.
The game seemed finally to have gone beyond Wigan thanks to another mistake. Bryan Fletcher's pass came off Gareth Hock's fingertips and Long snapped up the intercept. He was not quite fast enough to score, but Ade Gardner was on hand.
Hock made amends on the hour with a try out of nothing that was the product of great footwork and strength. Danny Tickle, who had just taken the heaviest tackle of the match from Vinnie Anderson, hit the post with an easy conversion attempt.
Saints emphasised their superiority with a late try from Talau before Dobson helped to set one up for Brett Dallas. With Orr going to the sin bin, Lyon completed the scoring with a last-minute penalty.
Wigan: Ashton; Richards, Goulding, Vaealiki, Dallas; Orr, Dobson; Logan, Higham, Fletcher, Tickle, Hock, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: Paleaaesina, Seuseu, McAvoy, Hill.
St Helens: Wellens; Gardner, Lyon, Talau, Meli; Pryce, Long; Cayless, Cunningham, P Anderson, Sculthorpe, Gilmour, Hooper. Substitutes used: V Anderson, Fozzard, Faasavalu, Wilkin.
Referee: A Klein (Keighley).Reuse content