Warrington recorded their first victory in St Helens since 1994 as they ran out 22-12 victors with an emphatic performance on their first visit to the new Langtree Park.
Wily old veterans Lee Briers and Brett Hodgson pulled the strings for Wire, who have now firmly exorcised their nightmare record against their neighbours.
Briers, who made his Super League debut for St Helens as a teenager, has had to endure the better part of 15 years of torment at the hands of his hometown club, with only three victories against the Red Vee in the summer era before tonight’s showdown.
Enjoying somewhat of an Indian summer of his career, he characteristically controlled the game from first receiver, teasing the St Helens defence with his selection of passes and his devastating kicking game.
Tries from Hodgson, Hill, Waterhouse and Riley were enough to see Warrington home, while Shenton and Wellens scored consolation tries for Saints.
Tony Smith’s men raced into a 10-0 lead within the opening 10 minutes as they sought to blow Saints away early doors.
Former NSW full back Hodgson opened the scoring when his dummy fooled the Saints defence just enough to open up a small gap for him to crash over.
Moments later, Briers’ towering bomb was knocked backwards by Joel Monaghan for Chris Hill to charge over.
Warrington thought they were in for their third try after 15 minutes when another Briers kick was collected and touched down by Joel Monaghan. Video referee Phil Bentham thought otherwise, however, ruling that Francis Meli had defused the ball in-goal before Monaghan stripped the ball off him.
It was a sign of Warrington’s dominance that it was their first of five disallowed tries.
Michael Shenton powered over from short range after good hands from St Helens shifted the ball wide and allowed the England centre to beat three would-be defenders for strength to touch down.
Warrington’s goal line defence was tested as Saints began to build some pressure, with James Roby attempting his trademark short plays from dummy half. In previous years, Wire fans have seen their team destroyed around the ruck by messrs Cunningham and Roby, but this side under Tony Smith are made of sterner stuff and they held firm when against the Saints’ pack.
The visitors began the second half the way they began the first, crossing the try-line twice within minutes. First, Trent Waterhouse charged onto Hodgson’s short ball at a wonderful angle to slice through the defence and score in front of the massed ranks of travelling Warrington supporters.
Then, from the same handling move, this time the ball thrown behind the lead runners and shifted wide, Chris Riley found himself in space and touched down in the corner. His effort was chalked off for a foot in touch, but the signal of intent had been made from Warrington. They were not about to take their foot of the gas.
Riley was over the try-line again shortly afterwards when Richie Myler swooped on a loose ball on and raced 80 metres before being stopped by Lance Hohaia. From the resulting field position, the ball was shifted through hands by Briers and Hodgson but Atkins’ final pass to Riley was forward.
Warrington had another try chalked off moments later when another Briers bomb was not dealt with by Francis Meli and Joel Monaghan knocked the ball down for brother Michael to pounce and cross, but Richard Silverwood ruled that the ball went forward.
They wasted no time in crossing again, though, when Briers, Myler and Atkins combined to put finally put Riley in for a legitimate try in the corner, Wire’s leading try scorer brilliantly scooping the ball of his shoe laces from Atkins’ pass.
As the clock ticked down, Briers controlled the pace of the game, directing the Wolves around the park and pinning Saints deep into their own half with his boot.
Paul Wellens set up a tense final five minutes when he crossed for Saints and echoes of 2005 when three tries in 9 minutes snatched a St Helens victory from the jaws of a Warrington one sounded for the visiting fans.
It wasn’t to be, however, as Warrington saw the game off. They even crossed the try-line again after the final hooter had sounded. Lee Briers, fittingly, was the man to finally touch down after a scramble saw a loose ball kicked on by Tyrone McCarthy and palmed to the instrumental stand off, but McCarthy had knocked on in the build up. It denied him a fairytale finish to the game but could not wipe the grin off his face or that of the Warrington fans.
St Helens: Wellens, Makinson, Shenton, Jones, Meli, Hohaia, Lomax, Perry, Roby, Laffranchi, Puletua, Flannery, Wilkin
Replacements: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Flanagan, Clough, Dixon
T: Shenton, Wellens
G: Makinson 2
Warrington: Hodgson, Riley, Ratchford, Atkins, J Monaghan, Briers, Myler, Morley, Higham, Hill, Waterhouse, Westwood, McCarthy
Replacements: M Monaghan, Grix, Cooper, Wood
T: Hodgson, Hill, Waterhouse, Riley
G: Hodgson 3
Referee: Richard Silverwood
RLFANS Man of the Match: Lee Briers (Warrington)