Jonny Lomax seals a dramatic late win for St Helens to break Wigan’s heart | Super League
Wigan manager Matt Peet insisted this week that at least four teams will have a say in the composition of this year’s grand final. In terms of the rankings, he’s undeniably right, but if it’s Wigan v St Helens at Old Trafford in October, we’re in for a treat.
St Helens recently spent 1,000 consecutive days as Super League champions, so perhaps it was fitting that they picked up a victory filled with the hallmark that has set them apart from the chasing pack over the past three years : their ability to never give in.
It’s been two years since they lost consecutive league games, but with seconds remaining here at Newcastle, it looked like that run was about to end.
Wigan had performed admirably to not only lead by 10 points at one point, but still lead six points shorthanded after Brad Singleton was sent off with 15 minutes remaining. In recent years, a men’s advantage for St Helens was almost certainly a recipe for disaster for their opponents, but this Wigan side are cut from a different cloth.
However, just as it looked like they would hold their own, St Helens did what they have done so many times in the past and tore the script up at the very last moment. Wigan were close to equalizing at the top of the table, but in the blink of an eye Jonny Lomax’s dramatic final try after a break from Joe Batchelor opened up a four-point cushion at the top for the Saints.
“They were two very good teams who played well at different stages,” said their coach, Kristian Woolf. “We were a bit impatient, but I knew we would have an opportunity. We had to chase a few points and this last test was exceptional.
There is no doubt that this Wigan side are the biggest threat St Helens have faced when it comes to their Super League dominance.
The fact that the Saints were knocked out of the Challenge Cup by Wigan in the semi-final before the Warriors lifted the trophy in May underscored that, and this brave effort underscored it further.
“We’ll learn a lot from the game,” Peet said. “Our levels of effort and commitment were there, but to play for this club you have to be a bit smarter.”
Wigan deservedly led at half-time, after Jai Field and Bevan French combined to send the latter across the line, nullifying Jon Bennison’s early penalty for St Helens. When John Bateman extended Wigan’s lead after half-time, it opened up a 10-point cushion for the Warriors and in games like these, advantages of that size can be significant.
But St Helens fought impressively to level the contest. Batchelor instinctively kicked past Field to put the ball on the ground before Jack Welsby grabbed a loose ball in midfield and edged French to the line.
Bennison missed the goal but when Singleton was sent off – a decision Peet said he understood – the winger converted a routine penalty to make it 12-12. Suddenly, I felt like the momentum was with the champions.
However, Wigan produced a moment of pure magic when Field broke free from deep, before smartly throwing wide for French, who had the wherewithal to finish and put the Warriors back in front. Harry Smith converted and as Wigan held Saints at bay in the frenetic final minutes, it was easy to afford a moment of reflection to wonder if the balance of power in Super League was starting to shift.
But you can never write off saints. Batchelor broke free, Lomax backed and once again we were reminded that the dominant force in the competition is in no mood to let go of its grip any time soon.