Wigan climbed to third place in Super League after exacting sweet revenge on arch-rivals St Helens for October’s Grand Final defeat.
The Warriors came out on top 12-4 in a brutal, no-holds-barred contest in front of a spellbound capacity 24,054 crowd at the DW Stadium. It was a match that contained just three tries but countless examples of rugby league at its finest.
Defences reigned supreme and both sets of players were exhausted long before the end. It took a try from winger Joe Burgess 10 minutes from the end to finally break the champions’ resistance.
It was a second successive defeat for Saints, who began the season under Keiron Cunningham with six wins in a row, but there was no shame in this loss.
Wigan could hardly have made a better start, with Dom Manfredi charging over for a try after just 52 seconds. The winger reclaimed possession after Jordan Turner’s attempted clearance kick was charged down by prop Lee Mossop.
Matty Smith kicked the goal to make it 6-0 and Saints then had to scramble to prevent Manfredi and Anthony Gelling adding to the Warriors’ lead.
Wigan were indebted to a terrific last-ditch tackle by George Williams that brought down centre Josh Jones in full flight and, as the momentum shifted towards the visitors, it was no surprise when impressive forward Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook charged over for a try on 15 minutes.
Tom Makinson, third-choice marksman in the absence of Mark Percival and Travis Burns, was unable to add the goal and Saints suffered a blow when second rower Joe Greenwood, just back from an elbow injury, limped off with an ankle problem.
As the conditions deteriorated and fatigue set in, the game developed into a war of attrition. The key moment came 10 minutes from the end when Burgess won the race to George Williams’ grubber kick, touching the ball down with inches to spare. Ryan Hampshire kicked the conversion to complete Wigan’s revenge mission.
Leaders Leeds Rhinos won 26-12 at Castleford to add to recent back-to-back wins over Wigan and Catalans.
The six-time champions saw Ryan Hall sin-binned for the first time in his career early on but they dug in to deny the Tigers before the England winger scored on his return to add to Joel Moon’s try minutes earlier.
Stevie Ward’s converted effort cancelled out Michael Shenton’s try and gave Leeds a 16-6 half-time lead, which they extended through Hall’s second just after half-time.
Adam Cuthberton sealed the points, meaning Shenton would have little reason to celebrate his second try late on.