St Helens 16 Wigan Warriors 28

Joe Burgess scores for Warriors
Joe Burgess scores for Warriors

SHAUN WANE hailed the quality of his Warriors team as they secured a friendly win at Langtree Park.

Teenage winger Joe Burgess pounced for two tries, including a 75th minute effort which opened up a six-point lead and calmed the visitors’ nerves.

Gil Dudson ensured there would be no way back for St Helens - and testimonial man James Roby - with a close-range effort in the final minute to seal a satisfying win.

Earlier, fans watched Matty Bowen, Eddy Pettybourne and Tony Clubb make solid debuts in an entertaining match.

”I thought it was a good performance in an entertaining, intense game. I was really pleased with out middles and we’ll go into next week in a good place,” said Wane.

After last week’s friendly at Workington was washed out, Wane had stressed the importance of this game to his players with just seven days before their Super League defence begins against Huddersfield.

Despite trailing 12-6 at the break, there was plenty of encouragement from the steely - if error-strewn - opening half display.

St Helens’ prized halfback recruit Luke Walsh started the match at halfback, and converted the opening try in the sixth minute after Adam Swift had pounced on a Bowen spilled ball and raced clear.

For the majority of the opening half, Wigan had the better of the field position.

Scott Taylor ran the ball strongly, while his replacement Pettybourne had fans chanting, “Eddy, Eddy, Eddy” with a string of bone-jarring hits.

With the middle dominating, Wigan drew level.

Blake Green, a probing, roaming menace, found Liam Farrell with a sweet pass and the forward charged over for a try ex-Saint Matty Smith converted.

Saints countered well, marching down field and - when Burgess slipped trying to defuse a high kick - Roby was on hand to turn the scraps into a celebratory meal. Walsh’s conversion reopened a six-point lead.

Bowen had few opportunities to showcase his attacking flair during the opening half. But Wane had obviously seen enough, resting him at the interval and replacing him with Ryan Hampshire at full-back.

And the teenager was quick to make an impression, linking with Green and Smith to punish a stretched Saints defence and send Burgess sliding over at the corner.

Smith locked the scores, and within two minutes produced a piece of magic to launch Wigan ahead for the first time.

Attacking from 40m out, he chipped the Saints line and regathered, fed a bulked-up Logan Tomkins with an audacious flick pass and, close to the line, he found Green in support.

But that score served to inject life into the home side, who reached Wigan’s line and Swift juggled over in the corner. With Walsh hitting the upright, the visitors maintained a slender 18-16 lead.

Wane replaced a clutch of senior players - O’Loughlin, Smith, Green and the assured Darrell Goulding - with younger members of his squad, and for a spell Wigan lost some of their direction and attacking potency.

But they finished strongly, with Burgess sliding over in the corner and Dudson adding the crowning glory.

Saints half Walsh was to have an X-ray on a suspected broken jaw.

St Helens: Lomax; Swift, Percival, Jones, Dawson; Turner, Walsh; Amor, Roby, Laffranchi, Wilkin, Manu, McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Subs: Hohaiai, Soliola, Flanagan, Wellens, Walmsley, Wheeler, Richards, Forster.

Wigan: Bowen; Burgess, Goulding, Sarginson, Thornley; Green, Smith; Taylor, Powell, Flower, Farrell, Clubb, O’Loughlin. Subs: Hughes, Tomkins, Dudson, Crosby, Pettybourne, Bateman, Hampshire, Williams, James, Manfredi.

Referee: Phil Bentham

Half-time: 12-6

Starman: Dan Sarginson