Warrington lived up to their promise to become a much harder side to play against this season, but they never quite worked their way into a winning position. The events of a few minutes midway through the second half determined that an honourable defeat was the most they would come away with.
First, their former player Paul Sculthorpe brilliantly created a try for Paul Newlove to give Saints a six-point lead. Then Tommy Martyn escaped without being sent off for a high tackle on Chris Morley, when the referee, Russell Smith, had initially reached for his top pocket. Instead, Martyn was merely placed on report and Warrington compounded the situation when their prop, Danny Nutley, knocked on straight from the tap penalty.
"That was the big play of the game," said the Warrington coach, Darryl Van de Velde. "Especially when they went to the other end and scored."
Saints did that through a close-range effort from Keiron Cunningham and never again looked likely to lose the game, even though Adam Doyle's pass and Mark Forster's angled run briefly brought Warrington back to within six points.
But then Bobbie Goulding, who also succeeded with seven place kicks, put over an insurance drop goal and the ever-dangerous Newlove touched down with seven minutes remaining.
Newlove had been a handful from the start, going close to scoring before Jason Roach's opener for Warrington and then providing the pass for Anthony Sullivan's reply. Lee Briers' clever kick produced a try for Lee Penny that put Warrington ahead, but Goulding's pass to Martyn saw Saints back in front by half-time.
Briers' kicking brought Warrington level but despite their combativeness, they are not yet a match for their tormentors.
Yet the Cup holders, for all the impact of players such as Newlove and Sculthorpe, still have a little bedding-in ahead of them before they are convincing candidates for three in a row.
St Helens: Atcheson; Smith, Haigh, Newlove, Sullivan; Martyn, Goulding; Goldspink, Cunningham, O'Neill, Joynt, Sculthorpe, Hammond. Substitutes used: Long, Anderson, Perelini, Pickavance.
Warrington: Penny; Roach, Eagar, Roper, Forster; Doyle, Briers; Chambers, Farrar, Nutley, Knott, Tuuta, Wainwright. Substitutes used: Stevens, McCurrie, Morley.
Referee: R Smith (Castleford).Reuse content