WIGAN edged an absolute classic at the DW Stadium as they scored with the last play of the game to win 28-24.
Down on bodies, bruised and battered Saints were within seconds of recording a famous win but just couldn’t hold on.
Losing Gary Wheeler and Paul Wellens during the match, they kept on coming and going forward and several of the kids came of age – Tommy Makinson for one.
Saints led 10-4 at half time thanks to a performance based on fantastic scrambling defence and taking the opportunities when they came.
Gary Wheeler put Michael Shenton in for the opening score then James Roby and Jonny Lomax inspired Jamie Foster’s eighth of the year.
But Wheels was clattered late by Ryan Hoffman and had to leave the field – and with him off Wigan took full advantage and scored through Josh Charnley.
The second half began with Saints reshuffling after the loss of Paul Wellens and Wheeler and Wigan going ahead.
Pat Richards finished off the great move on the left, before Charnley grabbed his brace on the opposite side.
Richards clocked up another, but Saints weathered the pressure and hit back through Foster.
Then, Tony Puletua broke down the field and fed Tommy Makinson for the leveller.
And with less than five minutes to go, Foster remained ice cool to kick a penalty to put his side ahead.
But with the last play of the game, Liam Farrell found a gap and clinched it for the Warriors.
Wigan were unchanged from the team that beat Hull KR last week whilst Saints made a couple of enforced changes: Gary Wheeler moving into the half backs from centre whilst Jon Wilkin replaced Chris Flannery. Francis Meli making a welcome return in the centres.
Traditionally, Wigan – Saints derbies are tight in the opening stages but both sides has chances to store in the first five minutes.
Francis Meli pulled off a try-saving tackle on four minutes, before Saints turned defence into attack with James Roby breaking through – but his pass to Wellens just went to ground.
Wigan then forced a drop out but an earth shuddering tackle on Jeff Lima by James Graham forced the ball loose.
Saints then won a drop out of their own, but couldn’t make the possession count.
They did minutes later though. After two slow play the balls, Graham took the ball up and got a cute and almost impossible looking offload through to Wheeler.
The youngster then went 30 yards and had the simple act of feeding Michael Shenton for his 101th career score.
Foster drifting his conversion to the left of the posts.
It was no more than Saints deserved after an opening 20 were they were totally on top of their opponents in attack and defence.
But just as Wigan were threatening to come back into it – that man did it again. Roby broke through and somehow got an offload through which Lomax picked up.
He blasted through the middle and after he was tackled, the ball went left and Foster benefitted from Meli’s nice pass.
Foster slapping the conversion right off the touchline.
On 31 minutes Ryan Hoffman smashed Gary Wheeler late after he had kicked through and it was disgracefully ignored by the referee – Wheels leaving the field with an arm injury – later confirmed as a popped AC joint.
Saints lacked a little direction with Wheeler off the field and that buoyed up Wigan. After Saints were penalised for holding down, Wigan always had numbers and Josh Charnley went over – although there was a suggestion of a forward pass.
Half Time: Wigan 4 Saints 10
Saints came out for the second half missing both Paul Wellens and Gary Wheeler and had to adjust their lines accordingly.
And after they had defended a Saints 40:20 from the Saints, Wigan found a way to the line with Pat Richards.
The simplest of passing had Saints scrambling to the left and the winger made no mistake.
And it got worse as seconds later the defence was all at sixes and seven and Charnley clocked his second of the match.
Richards slotting off the touchline.
Wigan then came again. The ball was kept alive and Richards backed up George Carmont’s break – converting his own score from the touchline once again.
But Saints hit back. After being pinned in their own half for the majority of the half, a stunning tackle forced a Wigan knock on. And from the scrum a fine move saw Tommy Makinson linking with Francis Meli to send Foster over for his second.
He then banged it off the touchline to make it a six point game.
From the restart, Saints were awarded a penalty for a high tackle on Makinson and after a stunning break down the field by Puletua he fed Makinson to make it 20-22.
Ice cool Foster then did the business to level it up.
Still more drama…
Saints got the ball back on 73 minutes when Shenton stole the ball from Sam Tomkins one on one and then won a penalty right within kicking distance.
And Foster remained so cool to fire it over.
But Wigan came right back into Saints territory and had a massive set right on Saints line – only to see Foster collect a high ball after it came off Meli.
And another set later, Gardner had to knock the ball behind his own line for a drop out.
But the pressure paid – Liam Farrell getting over the line with the last play of the game.
It was tough on Saints who were running on empty – but a time when the youngsters came to the fore and showed just how good they will be.
Tries: Charnley (2), Richards (2), Farrell
Goals: Richards (4 from 5)
Tries: Shenton, Foster (2), Makinson
Goals: Foster (4 from 5)
REF: Richard Silverwood
1. Sam Tomkins; 25. Josh Charnley, 12. Joel Tomkins, 4. George Carmont, 5. Pat Richards; 6. Paul Deacon, 7. Thomas Leuluai; 10. Andy Coley, 9. Michael McIlorum, 15. Jeff Lima, 11. Harrison Hansen, 16. Ryan Hoffman, 13. Sean O’Loughlin,
Subs: 14. Paul Prescott, 17. Brett Finch, 21. Lee Mossop, 22. Liam Farrell.
1. Paul Wellens; 2. Ade Gardner, 3. Michael Shenton, 5. Francis Meli, 22. Jamie Foster; 20. Jonny Lomax, 17. Gary Wheeler; 10. James Graham, 9. James Roby, 15. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 12. Jon Wilkin, 4. Sia Soliola, 11. Tony Puletua.
Subs: 14. Scott Moore, 18. Matty Ashurst, 21. Shaun Magennis, 28. Tommy Makinson.