Wigan have the final say
Rugby League: St Helens 14 Wigan 44
Monday 09 September 1996
For Wigan, the final match of the season last night meant the difference between a season marred by disappointment and one that would be written off as an unmitigated disaster. They played like a team for whom defeat was unthinkable; but for Saints it was really undesirable.
In a match which distilled all the intense rivalry between these two clubs into 80 minutes, that gap in attitudes made all the difference in the world.
"We were desperate tonight," said Wigan's Andy Farrell, whose Harry Sunderland Trophy for his display in the final follows his selection as "Man of Steel", the game's leading individual award, in mid-week. "Saints deserve everything they've got this season, but there was no way we wanted them to win three trophies."
From the start Wigan were propelled forward by a sense of urgency, Gary Connolly spotting a weakness in the Saints' defence had the play-the-ball that was to plague them all evening.
Saints, with an unforgettable treble to chase, came back tremendously with Derek McVey getting away a telling pass for Paul Newlove to go over and for Bobbie Goulding's kick to put them ahead for the only time in the match.
Jason Robinson's jinking run and pass to Shaun Edwards put a stop to that, before Danny Ellison's emergence as the unlikely hero of the last chapter of Wigan's season. The first of a hat-trick of tries came from a basketball pass from the outstanding Farrell and Wigan was suddenly in a commanding position.
A Goulding penalty edged Saints a little closer, but Ellison's second try completing a sweeping move involving Farrell, Robinson and Edwards kept Wigan comfortably in front at the break.
Saints' best period of the match was the first 10 minutes of the second half, when for the only time they managed to exert some sustained pressure on Wigan. That finally paid off when Newlove's powerful run and pass allowed Tommy Martyn to roll out of Connolly's tackle and over the try-line.
Wigan had the perfect answer to that, the imperious Farrell sending Simon Haughton striding in, and the final quarter of the match was purely a question of how many more they would score.
Farrell and Edwards broke from the scrum base to provide one for Henry Paul, Robinson scored one out of nothing and Craig Murdock backed up Ellison for another, before Ellison himself, only given a chance in the first team because of Martin Offiah's departure, rounded off the evening.
They had channelled all their frustrations into one last performance, knowing it would make all the difference to the way that they would feel about 1996, and they had gained their due reward.
For St Helens, one sub-standard display should not obscure the satisfaction of a magnificent campaign. This was, however, a case of one match too many and despite some valiant tackling, especially from Alan Hunte, they always gave Wigan too many chances.
Wigan: Radlinski; Ellison, Tuigamala, Connolly, Robinson; Paul, Edwards; Skerrett, Hall, O'Connor, Haughton, Cassidy, Farrell. Substitutes used: Cowie, Johnson, Murdock, Barrow.
St Helens: Prescott; Hayes, Hunte, Newlove, Sullivan; Martyn, Goulding; Perelini, Cunningham, Fogerty, McVey, Morley, Hammond. Substitutes used: Pickavance, Arnold, Booth, Haigh.
Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).
n Paul Newlove is out of Great Britain's tour to Papua New Guinea, Fiji and New Zealand after badly damaging a hamstring in the latter stages of the final.
Latest in Sport
Tour de France 2015: Five riders abandon race after huge crash on Stage 3
World's highest paid athletes: Floyd Mayweather way ahead as three Brits make top 20
Cristiano Ronaldo storms out of interview after being asked about possible sale of Manchester United target Sergio Ramos
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Kyrgios set for heavy fine for giving up game during loss to Richard Gasquet
Nick Kyrgios supporters who smeared Vegemite on their face questioned by Serena Williams
- 1 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 2 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 3 Isis flag: What do the words mean and what are its origins?
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...
£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...
£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...