SAINTS produced an outstanding performance full of passion and never say defence to beat Wigan 16-12 at DW Stadium.
A Tommy Makinson double and another from Captain fantastic Paul Wellens sent Nathan Brown’s men three points clear at the top of the Super League table.
But this win was more than getting one over your local rivals – it was about guile, commitment effort and never giving up.
So much so that when Wigan had repeated sets on Saints line at the death and almost threatened a famous comeback, the attitude to keep the Warriors’ at bay was breathtaking.
In the end, a wonderful tackle from Mark Percival on Anthony Gelling sealed the match for Saints in the last second.
Thing is, we all knew it was coming as a finale that like was always on the cards after it was tied four apiece at half time following tries from Joe Burgess and Tommy Makinson.
Wigan scored after nine minutes as Saints failed to deal with a chip through but wonderful pass from Mark Flanagan – for the second week in a row – ensured the visitors drew level.
Paul Wellens’ opportunistic score put Saints ahead in the second half but they couldn’t make their overall domination count – and Josh Charnley made them pay.
But Saints showed their resolve going ahead with Mark Percival’s penalty and then a wonder try from Makinson – right before the last minute defensive heroics.
Team news saw Saints Alex Walmsley returning from suspension and straight into the front row with 18-year-old Greg Richards.
That left a strong looking bench of Willie Manu, Mose Masoe and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook with Luke Thompson.
Bone crunching defence was the order of the day in the early stages with Saints in particular putting in huge hits all over the park.
But a break on six minutes from Charnley gave Wigan a penalty and the impetus.
He broke through from Walsh’s clearing kick and from the resulting infringement the Warriors gained a drop out.
Wigan then pounded the line, pushed it left on the last and Joe Burgess collected a nice chip.
Matty Smith missing the tricky conversion.
It was the last thing Saints probably deserved after their opening charge – but showed how clinical Wigan are with the ball in hand.
A clearing Walsh kick brought some respite in the 15th minute but a penalty from the resultant scrum and then a repeat set that never was brought more pressure.
Saints withstood it though before Wigan forced them back into their own area once again.
A Wigan drop out gave Saints their first real attacking set in the Warriors’ half and they didn’t disappoint.
Mose Masoe set it up with a great run before Mark Flanagan flipped it out the back for Tommy Makinson to go over in the corner.
The try-scorer missed the conversion – with Walsh off the field injured.
It was tied 4-4 but on 28 minutes Wigan got a penalty they simply didn’t deserve – the touch-judge saying Masoe came in late after the Warriors were called for a forward pass.
It was harsh and Wigan gained a drop out after Saints repelled borders.
Saints finally got their first penalty on 30 minutes and immediately put Wigan on the rack with a repeat set.
They then gained a penalty they opted to run… and the ball went to ground.
But they continued to come and forced another drop out in the final five minutes – without any luck.
Tied 4-4 at half time the game was in the balance – but Saints broke the deadlock just two minutes into the second half.
Mark Percival forced an error in midfield and after five strong drives Wilkin’s kick was knocked back by Saints and Paul Wellens mopped up.
Saints had their tails up and their defence was rocking Wigan right back on their heels.
Massive hits from Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Wilkin and the impressive Masoe meant the Warriors were coming out of their own 20 on every set.
And on 55 minutes that defence almost made all the difference.
Saints forced another repeat after a Hohaia chip through but they lost the ball in the most crucial of moments.
That gave Wigan a welcome break and they made no mistake; Charnley finishing off a great Wigan move to level it up.
Percival showed great nerve to make it 10-8 with a penalty but then Makinson produced another special.
Jordan Turner did the damage out on the right drawing in men but his winger scorched down the right hand side, beat two defenders and put down.
Percival gloriously slotting from the touchline with the conversion.
Wigan weren’t done though and they kept pounding the Saints line.
In the final ten minutes they were given five penalties, had two repeat sets and had a Burgess’ try correctly chalked off for a double movement.
Charnley did get over for his second with two minutes to go, but despite those penalties, Saints were simply not going to let this go.
And Percival’s tackle on Gelling in the last second summed it up. He went mental, as did the fans, and the coaching staff.
It meant that much.
Tries: Burgess, Charnley (2)
Goals: Smith (0 from 3)
Tries: Makinson (2), Wellens
Goals: Makinson (0 from 2), Percival (1 from 2)
REF: Phil Bentham
1. Matty Bowen; 2. Josh Charnley, 23. Dan Sarginson, 5. Anthony Gelling, 32. Joe Burgess; 19. Sam Powell, 7. Matty Smith; 10. Ben Flower, 27. George Williams, 16. Gil Dudson, 14. Jack Hughes, 25. John Bateman, 13. Sean O’Loughlin.
Subs: 8. Scott Taylor, 17. Dominic Crosby, 28. Jordan James, 42. Jamie Doran.
17. Paul Wellens; 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Jordan Turner, 22. Mark Percival, 5. Adam Swift; 6. Lance Hohaia, 7. Luke Walsh; 27. Greg Richards, 9. James Roby, 18. Alex Walmsley, 15. Mark Flanagan, 12. Jon Wilkin, 11. Sia Soliola.
Subs: 8. Mose Masoe, 10. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 13. Willie Manu, 28. Luke Thompson.