SAINTS finally ended their Wigan hoodoo with a thrilling 26-18 victory at the DW Stadium.
Tony Puletua was electric throughout as he laid on three tries and put in a massive defensive effort to secure third place in the Stobart Super League.
It was the perfect way to end an eventful season and sent out a message to the rest of the competition that they aren’t done yet.
A real barnstormer of a first half saw Saints lead 12-6 and Wigan down to 12 men.
Mike Rush’s side were on top when Thomas Leuluai slid through the defence against the run of play – before a moment of madness from Michael McIlorum earned him a red card.
The international hooker flew out of the line to flatten Anthony Laffranchi late and high and was understandably given his marching orders.
It took Saints a little time to regroup – even after their good start and man advantage – but they did through James Roby.
Tommy Makinson then put Saints ahead following Michael Shenton’s fine pass.
In the second half, Pat Richards pulled Wigan level and cranked up the crowd noise.
But after a couple of dodgy moments Saints got back in the lead – Tony Puletua’s run and offload seeing Dixon though.
Josh Jones then benefitted from another TP offload and the big man was involved again as Lomax sidestepped Sam Tomkins and sealed the win.
In a game that most pundits had as a “dead rubber” both sides named very strong line-ups. For Saints Joe Greenwood came in for the injured Sia Soliola whilst Michael Shenton returned in the centres.
Gil Dudson was named on the bench for the Warriors and Stuart Fielden made his first start for 18 months.
Saints started strongly with Josh Perry putting in a barnstorming run before Francis Meli marched his side down the field with a fine kick return.
Lance Hohaia and Anthony Laffranchi also went close too.
Saints then had a real chance after Sam Tomkins panicked following a Wilkin chip – Josh Charnley forcing the ball dead for a drop out – but they couldn’t unlock the defence.
And after such a good start it was a hammer blow when Wigan scored first; Thomas Leuluai getting on the end of a good run and ghosting through the defence.
Pat Richards adding the coolest of extras from close to the touchline.
But moments later Michael McIlorum was sent off for a late and high challenge that floored Anthony Laffranchi.
And from the replay he can have no complaints.
Saints were buoyant and had wave after wave of attack on the Wigan line. Lomax went close but composure was lacking on a number of other occasions.
But they finally did click in the 24th minute when Lomax’s jinking run was bettered by TP.
The big man marched towards the line and then offloaded to Roby who made no mistake.
Moments later another high ball caused mayhem and after a knock on and scrum, the ball came right and Michael Shenton slipped in Tommy Makinson for a wonderful try.
And to compound matters he banged the conversion off the touchline.
With two minutes to go Saints kicked out on the full on the last tackle and put themselves under immense pressure.
And it took the sharpness of Francis Meli to make sure the Warriors coming right back into it.
Saints then defended another drop out and protected their vital advantage heading into the break.
Wigan had the better of the early stages of the second 40 and were rewarded when Richards squeezed over in the corner after just four minutes.
He then goaled from the touchline to give Saints a massive wake-up call.
And it was one they almost didn’t heed as after having the ball in the Warriors’ half it was inexplicably was given back to Wigan and they nearly scored.
In fact the Warriors were playing the better footy and continuously penning Saints back.
Like in the first half though, Saints scored against the run of play. Makinson flicked a ball back and Wilkin recycled it to TP who made a superb run and offload to send Andy Dixon over.
Makinson crucially missing the extras – but he did make up for that error by producing a try saving effort on Richards with 14 to go.
Perhaps that defensive stint did Saints the world of good as in their next foray into the Wigan half Puletua offloaded once again and Josh Jones flew in.
Minutes later, TP broke again, flipped the ball to Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook who got it inside to Lomax.
The young half back then stepped Tomkins for a superb score.
Wigan did get on the scoreboard at the death through Sam Tomkins, but it was Saints day – and their fans did the Poznan.
Tries: Leuluai, Richards, Tomkins
Goals: Richards (3 from 3)
Tries: Roby, Makinson, Dixon, Jones, Lomax
Goals: Makinson (3 from 5)
REF: James Child
1. Sam Tomkins; 2. Josh Charnley, 3. Darrell Goulding, 4. George Carmont, 5. Pat Richards; 6. Brett Finch, 7. Thomas Leuluai; 15. Stuart Fielden, 9. Michael McIlorum, 14. Jeff Lima, 11. Harrison Hansen, 12. Gareth Hock, 13. Sean O’Loughlin.
Subs: 10. Lee Mossop, 16. Liam Farrell, 22. Gil Dudson, 23. Ben Flower.
1. Paul Wellens; 21. Tommy Makinson, 3. Michael Shenton, 26. Josh Jones, 5. Francis Meli; 6. Lance Hohaia, 7. Jonny Lomax; 8. Josh Perry, 9. James Roby, 14. Anthony Laffranchi, 11. Tony Puletua, 15. Mark Flanagan, 12. Jon Wilkin.
Subs: 10. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 16. Paul Clough, 19. Andy Dixon, 28. Joe Greenwood.