The biggest derby in the game, Wigan Warriors against St Helens, had the added spice of a mid-week managerial sacking as Saints parted company with Kieron Cunningham after twenty-three years of service. Eighth placed Saints would go level on points with the Warriors if they could get a win at the DW Stadium but the home side themselves had their eyes on fourth spot.
The Warriors welcomed back captain Sean O'Loughlin and Michael McIlorum returned just over twelve months after breaking his ankle. The new coaching staff at Saints gave a debut to exciting winger Regan Grace, and Matty Smith made his first return to his old stomping ground.
The first incident of note was the dismissal of Kyle Amor for a high tackle on Liam Farrell. Referee Thaler consulted with his touch judges but took little time on producing the red card. A tough task for Saints had just increased in difficulty.
Despite being behind in numbers it was Saints who took the lead on eighteen minutes when Mark Percival slotted over a twenty-five metre penalty for 2-0.
Twenty minutes into the game Joe Burgess won the race to a George Williams kick and managed to get his hand through a crowd of Saints legs to touch down. Morgan Escare added the extra two for the home side to take the lead.
Saints held back the Cherry and white tide until the thirty-seventh minute when Zeb Taia held down in the tackle and Escare kicked the penalty for a six point lead at the interval.
Two minutes after the restart and a brilliant team try got Saints back level on the scoreboard. A great break from Regan Grace took the Red Vee downfield with the ball then moved right, and left, before Morgan Knowles went over from acting half back after Theo Fages was hauled down just short. Percival kicked the extra two for 8-8.
Wigan struck straight back after Saints coughed up possession far too easily. A sublime Williams pass found Liam Marshall on the left wing to step past the defence and dive over. Escare added the extras from wide of the sticks.
A fifty-fourth minute Escare drop goal seemed to surprise everyone but the Frenchman and Saints now needed to score twice.
On fifty-six Grace scored his debut try as he flew over on the corner off a Percival pass and on the overlap as Saints gave the ball some air. Percival pulled the conversion attempt left of the sticks.
Again, within two minutes of conceding, Wigan responded when Liam Farrell took an O'Loughlin pass, threw the dummy and walked in for the four-pointer. Escare failed to add the extras leaving the scoreline at 19-12 with twenty minutes remaining.
On sixty-one Marshall scored a sensational one-handed acrobatic try by the corner flag at the end of a sixty metre Wigan passing move. Escare again failed to convert but the game was slipping away from Saints.
A deft sixty-fifth minute chip from Williams was caught on the full by Burgess who slid over the line for his second of the afternoon. Escare kicked the conversion for 29-12.
A seventy-first minute Tommy Makinson try was some consolation for the visitors and when Percival added the extras the Wigan lead was cut to eleven points, which the Warriors guarded until the final hooter.
It's difficult to fault Saints determination but on the day they weren't good enough to beat a Wigan side who cut loose in the second half. There were some terrific tries from both sides, some crunching tackles, and some dogged defence. The first minute dismissal of Amor undoubtedly influenced the game and all credit to Saints for keeping in the running, but over the eighty it was the Warriors who had a little more class and determination.
Escare (4G, DG), Davies, Gelling, Burgess (2T), Marshall (2T), Williams, Leuluai, Nuuausala, Powell, Flower, Tomkins, Farrell (T), O'Loughlin. Subs: Tautai, Sutton, ISA, McIlorum.
Makinson (T), Grace (T), Percival (3G), Morgan, Swift, Fages, Smith, Amor (SO), Lee, Douglas, Taia, Wilkin, McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Subs: Walmsley, Thompson, Richards, Knowles (T).