Magic Weekend´s game two on Saturday saw a top of the table clash between St Helens and Wigan Warriors in a game which could go a long way to deciding who lifts the Minor Premiership at the end of the season. A win for Saints would lift them four points clear of the chasers and into poll position to end the season on top of the pile.
Saints were slight favourites with the bookies, Wigan being given a two-point start on the handicap coupon, mainly due to the omission from the Saints side including Walmsley and Makinson while Wigan looked strong on paper.
It promised to be another close one to entertain the ever-increasing crowd.
The first points of the game came after a high tackle from Brad Singleton inside his own twenty, Jon Bennison slotting the ball over the uprights with just under six minutes on the clock.
It was all a big frantic from both sides as they struggled to take a grip on the game. Both sides were making mistakes with the ball in hand and spurning chances.
At the clock ticked on it was a real war of attrition but on the half hour Bevan French crossed in the right corner off a Jai Field pass to take the lead for the first time. Harry Smith managed to sneak his kick over the crossbar for a 6-2 lead.
Konrad Hurrell lost the ball five out from the Wigan line as he took a short pass with Saints trying to equalise, and with a few seconds remaining Wigan had a try ruled out for offside, but the Warriors carried their four-point lead into the interval in a low-scoring and edgy encounter.
Three minutes after the restart John Bateman chased down a French kick through to collect and dive over under the sticks as no Saints defenders were able to get a hand on him. Smith added a far simpler conversion than his first for a 12-2 lead.
A try out of the top drawer from Joe Batchelor got Saints back into the game on fifty-one. Taking the Jack Welsby pass, Batchelor put in a neat little dink which he collected himself to ground. Bennison was unable to add the extras, missing by some distance but Saints were back within a converted try.
Saints looked revitalised.
An error from Bateman, losing the ball in an attempted offload, saw Welsby collect the loose ball and sprint forty metres to bounce over the line and ground. Bennison couldn´t add the extras, Wigan still with a two-point lead.
As the game passed the hour mark it was still anyone’s game.
On sixty-four Brad Singleton hit a falling Curtis Sironen and after some consultation the referee showed a red card for direct contact to the head, Wigan a couple of points ahead but down to twelve for the remaining fifteen minutes.
Bennison kicked the resulting penalty to level the scores at 12-12, Saints with the upper hand.
On seventy it was the twelve men who regained the lead. A great break by Field and deft kick to the corner was collected by his partner in crime French, who managed to skip out of the last-ditch tackle and go in at the corner, managing to improve the angle slightly. Smith drilled his kick between the uprights for 18-12 with eight minutes remaining.
With six minutes remaining Regan Grace found space on the overlap left for a ten metre try but going over in the corner, Bennison was unable to add the extra two points, Saints still adrift.
Saints won the game with two minutes remaining on the clock when Jonny Lomax took a Batchelor pass to go in from ten metres out and dive over ten metres to the right of the uprights. Bennison hit the right upright, Saints two up at 20-18.
It was a magical game, befitting the magic weekend, with some terrific tries and plenty of drama. Wigan looked to have lost the game when Singleton was red carded but they dug deep and created a sensational try out of nothing as French got his second of the afternoon. But playing the last fifteen minutes with just twelve men was too much as Lomax scored the crucial try to win the game and take the points, and with it re-establish Saints as favourites for the minor premiership.
St Helens: Hopoate, Bennison (2G), Hurrell, Mata´utia, Grace (T), Welsby (T), Lomax (T), Paasi, Roby, Lees, Sironen, Batchelor (T), Knowles. Subs: Lussick, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Wingfield, Norman.
Wigan Warriors: Field, French (2T), Isa, Bibby, Marshall, Cust, Smith (3G), Singleton (SO on 65), Powell, Byrne, Farrell, Bateman (T), Shorrocks. Subs: Smithies, Mago, Partington, Havard.
Score Progression: 2-0, 2-4, 2-6 : HT : 2-10, 2-12, 6-12, 10-12, (SO), 12-12, 12-16, 12-18, 16-18, 20-18 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: Saints – Wigan – Square – Wigan - Saints.
Referee: Liam Moore.