SAINTS staged a late rally to take a point from their opening Super League game against Wigan at Cardiff.
They trailed 16-0 but hit back with three unanswered tries late in the second half.
The reigning champions took the lead on 11 minutes through a Ryan Hoffman try in their first attack of the game. It came following a blistering passage of play featuring multiple offloads, culminating in the big Australian back row stretching over in the corner.
It was converted to make it 6-0.
It came against the run of play, with Saints having dominated the first ten minutes but failed to find a way through with players on both teams losing their footing on the slippery surface.
After a spell of Wigan pressure, the champions looked certain to score when the ball was fanned left to Josh Charnley, but he was halted and held up on the line by a superb ball and all tackle from Paul Wellens and Michael Shenton.
Saints rallied with another good spell, but the closest they came to scoring was when the lively James Roby plunged for the line but – under great defensive pressure – dropped the ball inches from the floor.
The Warriors responded in typical fashion with a speculative high punt downfield not taken by the advancing Francis Meli, who contribution to the passage of play only served to distract full back Paul Wellens. The ball bounced favourably for Harrison Hansen, who touched down despite the best efforts of Ade Gardner.
Sam Tomkins’ goal doubled the Wigan lead Gardner had a lucky escape moments later when he missed a Wigan kick wide – which fortunately just went touch in goal before the Wigan hands could get to it.
The remainder of the half consisted largely of Saints pressure – but each raid was superbly repelled by a watertight Wigan defence.
Saints were unlucky too – with Shenton having a try chalked off after a high kick was adjudged to have been knocked forward by the video ref.
As Saints cranked up the pressure both Roby and Gardner were held up on the line.
Saints looked sure to come away with something, but unfortunately Graham dropped Wellens’ flat pass from a play the ball on the line.
Jon Wilkin, too, went close when he surged towards the Wigan line before being cut down three yards short.
Although Saints started the half promisingly, Wigan got the telling next score.
It came after Meli had slowly fielded a Wigan kick and tried to salvage the situation by tossing a pass behind the line to Wellens, who subsequently forced back by the joint challenge of Thomas Leuluai and Lee Mossop.
From the drop out another Wigan raid resulted in George Carmont crossing on the left, with Tomkins this time unable to improve it.
Wigan now turned the screw – and were well on top in all facets of the game forcing Saints to do some desperate defending.
They did show some nice touches with their rare second half forays, with Roby at the centre of most of them.
Shenton came close to putting Gardner in, but a Wigan hand intervened.
Then Roby dashed through the middle and popped up a great little ball to the supporting Wilkin, who dashed under the sticks on 64 minutes.
Jamie Foster added on the conversion to give hope to the small pocket of Saints fans among the 30,891 Cardiff crowd.
And there was real belief when Saints capitalised on a Paul Prescott high tackle by cranking up the pressure and giving a great position for Tony Puletua to latch on to an Eastmond pass to drive over from 10 metres.
Foster’s goal cut the deficit to four points with just ten minutes to play.
And in a thrilling closing spell Eastmond, Wilkin and Lomax combined too send Meli in at the corner.
Foster’s goal missed but the scores were level.
Eastmond’s last second drop goal attempt from a tap penalty just went wide.
Saints: Wellens; Gardner, Shenton, Lomax, Meli; Wheeler, Eastmond; Graham, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Wilkin, Moore. Subs: Puletua, Clough, Foster, Dixon.
Wigan: Tomkins; Goulding, Gleeson, Carmont, Charnley; Deacon, Leuluai; Lima, McIlorum, Coley, Hoffman, Tomkins, O’Loughlin.
Subs: Hansen, Prescott, Mossop, Farrell.
Ref: Richard Silverwood.
Many thanks to the St Helens Star for this article.