While the all-conquering St Helens side came into the game at the top of the Super League 2022 pile, their challengers in tonight´s televised round five game, the Warrington Wolves, knew that an unlikely win by more than thirty-four points would see them assume the top position while a win of fourteen points or more would lift them into second spot.
The two sides emerged into the rain, perhaps the levelling variable that Daryl Powell´s men needed to overcome the odds and pick up a win.
Our pre-match Twitter Poll had 90% of people predicting a St Helens win and the bookies agreed giving the Wolves a twelve-point start on the coupon.
From the first hooter it was clear that this was going to be a full-blooded encounter with both sides turning up intent on throwing everything that they´d got into the game.
Warrington drew first blood from the boot of Stefan Ratchford when referee Chris Kendall ruled Saints offside.
A late tackle from Sione Mata´utia on kicker George Williams on fifteen saw the big Saints second rower sin-binned. But it was the twelve men who drew level on twenty-one when Tommy Makinson kicked a forty-metre penalty goal.
On twenty-two minutes Williams was sin-binned as Warrington were caught repeatedly offside, the Wolves now down to twelve, and on the next set the Saints went in for the games first try as Jack Welsby chased a Jonny Lomax grubber and grounded in the right corner. Makinson added the conversion from the touchline for an 8-2 lead.
The Saints were in again on thirty-two with Makinson being the man on the spot to take the pass in ten metres of space for a walk-in try after a patient build up but the winger couldn´t convert his own try, Saints 12-2 ahead.
Saints edged closer to the win on fifty-three when Makinson went in for his second of the night when he took a Welsby miss-out pass to go ten metres down the left wing and ground in the corner. Makinson pushed his kick wide of the far upright, but Warrington had a mountain to climb.
Shoddy Warrington defence on sixty-two allowed Mark Percival to step through a Peter Mata´utia attempted tackle to run the angle and score from fifteen metres out. Lewis Dodd added the conversion to put twenty points between the sides.
Another awful Wolves mistake gifted Jonny Lomax a twenty-metre run to the line after a pass hit Joe Bullock and looped into the Saints half-backs hands. Dodd added the conversion with just over a minute remaining for a 28-2 final score.
Another controlled, considered and clinical Saints performance as they begin to wear the ´unbeatable´ label with pride. As is becoming Saints way, they absorbed the early pressure and even looked second best for a while, but bided their time and struck in devastating fashion as their opponents tired. If they can keep their players fit, it is difficult to see who will be able to beat them in 2022 as they ply their trade at a different level to the rest of the mere mortals in the top flight.
St Helens: Welsby (T), Simm, Hopoate, Percival (T), Makinson (2T, 2G), Lomax (T), Dodd (2G), Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Mata´utia (SB on 15), Batchelor, Knowles. Subs: Lussick, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Sironen, Paasi.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford (T), Thewlis, Mata´utia, King, Ashton, Widdop, Williams (SB on 22), Bullock, Clark D, Cooper, Currie, Holmes, Hughes. Subs: Philbin, Clark J, Walker, Mulhern.
Score Progression: 0-2, (SB), 2-2, (SB), 6-2, 8-2, 12-2 : HT : 16-2, 20-2, 22-2, 26-2, 28-2 : FT .
Referee: Chris Kendall.