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Wigan beat Saints in a thriller
Wigan began the post Andy Farrell era in style with a 22-20 victory over arch enemy St Helens in an enthralling derby played in front of a Super League record crowd of 25,004 squeezed into the JJB Stadium.
Goalkicking back rower Danny Tickle, who is helping fill the void created by Farrell?s switch of codes, was the Warriors? hero with five goals and a try as they maintained their domination of the Red Rose derby.
Wigan were outscored four tries to three but St Helens? stand-in kicker Jamie Lyon was able to convert just two and did not have a penalty kick at goal.
Farrell, who watched the drama unfold from the directors? box, would have been proud of the way his former team-mates rallied after conceding three tries in an eight-minute burst just before half-time.
Saints looked set for their first win at the JJB Stadium for five years after overturning an 18-6 deficit but they were gradually over-hauled by the boot of Tickle in a tense second half.
Wigan caught their visitors cold, racing into a 12-0 lead inside seven minutes.
Tickle took a pass from full-back Kris Radlinski to touch down on five minutes and he was also involved in Radlinski?s try two minutes later which stemmed from a break by centre Stephen Wild.
Tickle added both goals and he also converted from the touchline a 20th-minute try from winger Brett Dallas, who demonstrated clinical finishing after centre David Vaealiki made the most of a long, speculative pass from hooker Terry Newton.
Wigan were good value for their 18-6 lead but the game was turned on its head by a Saints scoring burst of 14 points as Great Britain duo Sean Long and Keiron Cunningham began to weave their magic.
A midfield break by loose forward Jon Wilkin paved the way for Lyon to cross on 27 minutes and Wilkin then made the most of a break by substitute Mark Edmondson to grab his first try of the season.
When the hard-pressed Wigan defence failed to close down the elusive Long, Cunningham was on hand to force his way over for his second try of the match, his seventh of the season, and Lyon?s second conversion edged his side in front for the first time.
In contrast to the first-half points bonanza, the second half became a war of attrition as both sides tightened up their defences.
St Helens winger Ade Gardner thought he had scored after picking up a loose ball and haring 90 metres to the line only to discover referee Ian Smith had already blown up for a knock-on.
Tickle, who was off target for the first time with a penalty in first-half injury time, kicked his fourth goal to level the scores on 53 minutes but Wigan suffered a major blow when O?Loughlin was carried off on a stretcher a minute later.
A second successive Good Friday draw looked likely until St Helens substitute James Graham unluckily found himself in an offside position in front of his own posts snaffling up a loose ball.
Tickle added the simple goal to restore his side?s lead and Wigan were forced to defend desperately to extend their unbeaten run against St Helens in Super League to nine matches.
Wigan (18) 22. Tries: Tickle, Radlinski, Dallas. Goals: Tickle 5.
St Helens (20) 20. Tries: Cunningham 2, Lyon, Wilkin. Goals: Lyon 2.
Wigan: Radlinski, Dallas, Wild, Vaealiki, Aspinwall, Brown, Orr, Seu Seu, Newton, Guisset, Hansen, Tickle, O?Loughlin.
Replacements: Godwin, Sculthorpe, Allen, Beswick.
St Helens: Wellens, Albert, Lyon, Gilmour, Gardner, Roby, Long, Fozzard, Cunningham, P. Anderson, Graham, V. Anderson, Wilkin.
Replacements: Edmondson, Bennett, Mason, Moore.
Referee: Ian Smith (Oldham)
Thanks to: http://www.superleague.co.uk for another excellent article.