SAINTS failed to make their 12th Challenge Cup Semi Final in a row following a disappointing 18-4 defeat at Wigan.
Despite dominating in terms of possession they lacked composure at crucial times to make progression all too easy for their opponents.
The usual flair and pace around the ruck was missing too and even though there are players to return Mike Rush and Keiron Cunningham will have to sit down with their charges and regroup for the rest of the Super League campaign.
Wigan led 12-4 at the break after punishing two errors early in the half.
Paul Wellens put Saints ahead when he latched on to Michael Shenton’s nice offload following Jonny Lomax’ cute chip through.
But the Warriors hit right back through Sam Tomkins and Shaun O’Loughlin.
Saints had a number of chances to get back in the game but couldn’t find the killer pass.
In fact, on the balance of the opening 40 they would be upset not to be at least two scores to the good.
More mistakes signalled the beginning of the second half but Wigan took the first chance offered to them – Brett Finch’s mazy run making Saints task more difficult.
Then they simply closed out the game to make it a very frustrating afternoon for all.
Both sides ripped into each other from the off but it was Saints that got the best of the early exchanges.
Looking more balanced with Jon Wilkin, Gary Wheeler and Josh Perry back from injury, they forced an error from Anthony Gelling and then won a penalty when James Roby was taken high.
And after gaining a drop out, Jonny Lomax’ grubber on the last saw Michael Shenton collecting over the lie and offloading to Paul Wellens.
Lomax missing the conversion.
Saints continued to dominate the opening 12 minutes but couldn’t further punish a number of mistakes from the hosts.
And Wigan made them pay, scoring through Sam Tomkins on their first foray into their opponent’s half.
The try was simple – dummy runners bamboozling the defence meaning they couldn’t pick up the full back’s run.
Josh Charnley putting them ahead.
Moments later it could have been worse – a Thomas Leuluai kick causing panic in the defence and Saints would have been pleased to see Wellens mop up.
It was a warning sign unheeded as on the 20 minute mark Shaun O’Loughlin picked up an offload to increase the lead.
Charnley tagging on his second ‘extras’ of the afternoon.
Saints had a couple of chances to get back in the game but couldn’t demonstrate the execution when it was needed.
And that was epitomised again when Wellens made a wonderful break from a scrum in his own 20, but no one backed him up.
In the second half, both sides continued to show how not to keep hold of the ball despite having numerous chances.
But Brett Finch finished off one of those opportunities with a great run from Leuluai’s pass.
Tommy Makinson produced a wonderful break from inside his own 10 to get Saints right on the front foot and once his side won a repeat set the ball was fed to Gary Wheeler.
The young centre seemed to have the ball stripped out right on the line but the video referee bizarrely gave a drop out.
But once again Saints couldn’t find a way through – and that was the story of countless chances that came their way in the half.
As the game entered the final ten minutes Saints began to give penalties away and Josh Charnley took the opportunity to tag on another two points.
And that saw them through to the Semi Finals – and their second ‘rival’ scalp of the year.
Saints will have to learn from this experience very quickly and show the rest of Super League they are still a force to be reckoned with.
Tries: Tomkins, O’Loughlin, Finch
Goals: Charnley (3 from 4)
Goals: Lomax (0 from 1)
REF: Richard Silverwood
1. Sam Tomkins; 2. Josh Charnley, 26. Jack Hughes, 4. George Carmont, 24. Anthony Gelling; 6. Brett Finch, 7. Thomas Leuluai; 8. Paul Prescott, 9. Michael McIlorum, 10. Lee Mossop, 11. Harrison Hansen, 12. Gareth Hock, 13. Sean O’Loughlin.
Subs: 14. Jeff Lima, 16. Liam Farrell, 17. Chris Tuson, 21. Epalahame Lauaki.
1. Paul Wellens; 21. Tommy Makinson, 3. Michael Shenton, 17. Gary Wheeler, 5. Francis Meli; 6. Lance Hohaia, 7. Jonny Lomax; 14. Anthony Laffranchi, 9. James Roby, 8. Josh Perry, 13. Chris Flannery, 4. Sia Soliola 12. Jon Wilkin.
Subs: 10. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 15. Mark Flanagan, 16. Paul Clough, 18. Shaun Magennis.