SAINTS are just 80 minutes from another Grand Final appearance after a fantastic 26-18 win over Wigan Warriors at the DW Stadium.
Paul Wellens bagged a brace as his charges produced surely their best display of the season to finally grab a win over the auld enemy.
It was a cracking game for the neutral as Saints flew out of the blocks only to be pegged back as Wigan came on strong.
But your Super Saints defended like their lives depended on it and now wait on who Warrington will send to the Stobart Stadium a week on Saturday.
Saints produced nearly their most complete half of the season to lead 14-0 before Wigan hit right back as the hooter sounded.
Tries from Wellens and Jonny Lomax, plus the trusty Boot of Jamie Foster gave them a deserved advantage before Pat Richards got the Warriors into it.
In the second half, Sean O’Loughlin had his try wiped out by Paul Wellens in a mad opening 10 minutes.
Saints then forged further ahead through Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook but Joel Tomkins scored to bring Wigan into it again… and set up a nervous closing ten minutes.
But if anything Saints were stronger in those final stages and Wigan couldn’t get a look in.
Saints welcomed back Tony Puletua from a shoulder injury whilst Sia Soliola, James Roby, Jamie Foster and Francis Meli all came back into the reckoning after missing last week’s win at Quins.
Wigan made two changes from last week’s team with Ben Cross recovering from a suspected broken forearm.
Jamie Foster got Saints underway and immediately forced six on Wigan’s line following Paul Deacon’s knock on.
And when they shifted the ball right Tommy Makinson looked set to go over in the corner, but Pat Richards bundled him into touch.
Saints then had more pressure but Clough was pulled back for a forward pass and on 10 minutes Jon Wilkin dropped the ball with the line at his mercy.
Andy Coley should have seen red for a shocking high tackle on Makinson – but was only placed on report.
But Saints made the pressure pay – and it was a superb passing move that saw Paul Wellens attacking the line and turning Sam Tomkins inside out.
Foster with the conversion.
Minutes later Saints were 12-0 up. Out on the left Jon Wilkin cut inside, headed right and fed Shenton who skipped through the challenges. With three players on his left a simple pass saw Jonny Lomax increase the lead.
Wigan could have scored when Saints knocked on from the kick-off but superb defence had Sam Tomkins on his back on the last tackle.
And seconds later a strong tackle by Michael Shenton on Pat Richards stopped another certain score.
On 27 minutes, Foster added his third boot of the afternoon to take it to 14-0.
Saints had played complete rugby for 33 minutes – until Sam Tomkins ran on a fantastic angle to break their defence. But, under pressure from Lomax, he knocked on over the line.
Yet, there was a twist in the tale as right on the hooter Richards scored a controversial effort that featured six penalties, repeat sets and a couple of forward passes.
Half Time: Wigan 6 Saints 14
Both sides kicked behind the defensive line early doors before Wigan unlocked the defence again. Another forward pass to Charnley was ignored and once Wilkin was penalised the space was there for O’Loughlin to exploit.
Saints, though, hit back almost immediately. Lomax broke through the middle and found Makinson on his shoulder.
Saints then had space to send the ball right and for Wellens to notch his second.
Moments later, Josh Charnley had a try chalked off as he grounded before he put the ball down.
But Saints, once they’d weathered the pressure, landed another killer blow. Finally gaining a penalty from the referee they ran it and Roby linked up with LMS.
Foster with the conversion.
Wigan hit back through Joel Tomkins – goaled by Pat Richards – and continued to press as they sought the two scores that would put them into the semis.
Michael Shenton flew down the right with six minutes to go as Saints pushed for territorial advantage but he couldn’t find a way through.
But Saints were growing in stature by then and there was no way they would give up this lead.
If it goes to form it’s likely they’ll face the Warriors again, but with performances of such calibre from Wellens, Lomax, Roby and Gaskell there’s no reason why we can’t have a repeat.
Tries: Richards, O’Loughlin, J. Tomkins,
Goals: Richards (3 from 3)
Tries: Wellens(2), Lomax, McCarthy-Scarsbrook
Goals: Foster (5 from 5)
REF: Phil Bentham
1. Sam Tomkins; 25. Josh Charnley, 12. Joel Tomkins, 4. George Carmont, 5. Pat Richards; 6. Paul Deacon, 17. Brett Finch; 15. Jeff Lima, 7. Thomas Leuluai, 10. Andy Coley, 11. Harrison Hansen, 16. Ryan Hoffman, 13. Sean O’Loughlin.
Subs: 9. Michael McIlorum, 14. Paul Prescott, 22. Liam Farrell, 35. Ben Cross.
1. Paul Wellens; 28. Tom Makinson, 3. Michael Shenton, 5. Francis Meli, 22. Jamie Foster; 25. Lee Gaskell, 20. Jonny Lomax; 10. James Graham, 9. James Roby, 11. Tony Puletua, 4. Sia Soliola, 12. Jon Wilkin, 16. Paul Clough.
Subs: 14. Scott Moore, 15. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 19. Andrew Dixon, 24. Tom Armstrong.