St Helens 12 Wigan 24

Wigan celebrate Matty Smith's try
Wigan celebrate Matty Smith's try

Good Friday? It’s been a while since Wigan fans can remember a bad one!

This was their seventh successive derby victory over the Easter weekend.

And anyone who watched this will agree they thoroughly deserved it.

Sure, the winning margin was just 12 points, but from the moment Wigan took a grip of this contest midway through the first-half, they appeared in control.

Their defence was so strong, so well-drilled, they rarely felt threatened.

And with the ball, there were many more highlights than the four tries they posted.

Taulima Tautai terrified Saints down the middle, Dom Manfredi was devastating out wide and Matty Smith was astute at halfback.

Don’t be tricked by St Helens’ two tries in the final 20 minutes; Wigan dominated this game and, with a bit more polish, they could easily have registered 40 points.

But given they had yet to hit top-gear this season, even with only one defeat, this was a fabulous win.

The victory moved them to within two points of unbeaten leaders Warrington - setting up an intriguing fixture at the DW next Friday.

Before then, they have the visit of Hull KR on Easter Monday to prepare for.

Fit-again Joel Tomkins replaced Liam Farrell (shoulder injury) in the only change to the Wigan squad beaten 18-12 by Widnes.

In glorious conditions, Saints started the brighter and tested the visitors’ line - on four occasions they forced repeat sets.

But some dogged defending - and a spill by Jon Wilkin - let the Warriors off the hook. From that point on, the visitors wrestled control from Saints and, after exerting a spell of pressure of their own, they broke the deadlock when rapid passes by Dan Sarginson and Anthony Gelling found Manfredi in space.

That was the first of three tries in the opening half.

A mazy run by Manfredi set up the solid position and Sam Powell - who had never won a derby - grabbed their second. Facing a congested defence, he stabbed the ball on, chased and regathered to touch down. Smith’s first of four goals made it 10-0.

Gelling’s forward pass from the restart gifted Saints cheap possession, but Tautai’s thunderous tackle on Luke Walsh took the sting out of that threat. Tautai still has errors in his game but he has made strides this season, and frequently caught the eye against Saints with his powerful runs.

Tomkins then stormed over in the 32nd minute to open up a 16 point lead.

Saints had their chances before the break, most notably when Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook was held up over the line, but they failed to make it count and the home players were booed off by a section of their own fans as they left the pitch.

Both sides had tries chalked off by the video referee early in the second-half - Dominique Peyroux and Oliver Gildart crossing to no avail.

Wigan weren’t impeccable, but the spirit and character they showed more than compensated for the occasional errors and wrong choices.

Saints, soft in defence, rarely looked capable of mustering a comeback.

Smith’s boot opened up an 18-point lead after Greg Burke was upended in the tackle. And with Sarginson and Gildart breaking the line, it seemed inevitable they would increase their lead.

Saints, though, clung on and after Manfredi had saved one certain try, they managed to puncture Wigan’s line when Joe Greenwood trampled over Smith on his way over for a try.

The England halfback atoned for his mistake with a darting run for a try of his own - the video referee giving it the green-light once he was satisfied Walsh was not obstructed.

Theo Fages crossed for a late try but some strong tackling - including a great effort by Nick Gregson on Kyle Amor - ensured there was no further damage.

St Helens: McDonnell; Makinson, Peyroux, Dawson, Owens; Fages, Walsh; Tasi, Burns, Amor, Wilkin, Greenwood, McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Subs: Walmsley, Roby, Richards, Thompson.

Wigan: Sarginson; Manfredi, Gelling, Gildart, Charnley; O’Loughlin, Smith; Flower, Powell, Clubb, J Tomkins, Bateman, Burke. Subs: Mossop, Tautai, Sutton, Gregson.

Attendance: 17,180

Wigan starman: Dom Manfredi

Half-time: 0-16

Referee: Robert Hicks