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
Daniel Sturridge injury: Alongside Luis Suarez, how the Liverpool SAS may FAIL to become the most lethal partnership in Premier League history
Daniel Sturridge injury: Liverpool striker to have tests on hamstring problem
Diego Costa transfer to Chelsea impossible to stop, admits Diego Simeone
Hillsborough disaster anniversary: Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez among those at Anfield to pay tribute to the 96 who lost their lives
Daniel Sturridge injury latest: Liverpool striker has 'small strain' and will be given chance to prove fitness for Norwich game
- 1 Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 2 Naked yoga: the bare truth - it's already big in the US, and has now landed here
- 3 Man on a leash in Farringdon, London: Mystery of 'walkies' solved
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline bribed doctors to boost sales, says whistleblower
David Cameron: 'Jesus invented the Big Society – I'm just continuing God's work'
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...
£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...
£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...
£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...