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Wigan's woes continue
Wigan's woes continue
St Helens added to Wigan?s woes after completing the double over their relegation-threatened neighbours in front of a spellbound crowd of 18,358 at the JJB Stadium.
The Warriors produced their best performance of the season but it was still not enough to get the better of their arch rivals, who opened up a six-point lead at the top of the engage Super League courtesy of a 28-14 win.
To add to Wigan?s misery, Catalans Dragons? 28-20 win over Wakefield leaves them five points adrift at the foot of the table.
But it was not all doom and gloom for Brian Noble?s team, who matched the title favourites blow for blow in the first quarter and never wilted even when Saints got on top.
Wigan had turned for inspiration to Australian scrum-half Michael Dobson, their 13th debutant of 2006, and he did not disappoint as he kicked with purpose and perfection to keep the visitors pinned back in their own 20-metre area for long periods.
But Wigan?s misfiring attack, which had managed just two tries in two matches before this match, lacked the creativity to seriously trouble the best defence in Super League.
They relied heavily on the high kick to Pat Richards on the right wing and, on the one occasion they reached the Saints line in the first half, prop Scott Logan was unable to ground the ball.
St Helens coach Daniel Anderson gambled on the fitness of scrum-half Sean Long, who played with his right thigh heavily strapped, and he came into his own as Saints gradually got on top after weathering the early storm.
They provided an early warning to their hosts when second rower Lee Gilmour made a clean break, forcing full-back Chris Ashton to pull off a magnificent last-gasp tackle, and when winger Ade Gardner knocked on from Long?s high kick.
But it took them 22 minutes to break the deadlock, Australian centre Jamie Lyon taking a pass as first receiver close to the line and squeezing past Brett Dallas and Danny Hill for the game?s first try.
He kicked the difficult conversion and added a penalty six minutes later following a superb break by full-back Paul Wellens.
Wigan had a let-off three minutes before the break when Paul Sculthorpe dropped Long?s pass with the line at his mercy but they were unable to benefit.
Skipper Sean O?Loughlin will have nightmares over his stray pass out of the tackle 20 metres out from his own line that Saints winger Francis Meli snapped up to score a gift try, which Lyon again goaled.
Wigan thought they had made the perfect start to the second half when substitute centre Nathan McAvoy got winger Richards haring down the touchline but referee Ashley Klein brought him back for a forward pass.
As play swung from end to end, Danny Orr hauled Saints substitute forward Jon Wilkin down just short of the Wigan line before the Warriors finally gained some reward for their persistence.
Half-backs Dobson and Orr worked the ball out wide and Richards took O?Loughlin?s flick pass to cross at the corner, too far out for Danny Tickle to add the conversion.
Sculthorpe then missed another chance when he held on to the ball with a clear overlap but Saints extended their lead on 52 minutes when Lyon kicked a second penalty for a high tackle by Logan.
And the visitors made sure of the win just short of the hour when man of the match Long intercepted a pass from Bryan Fletcher on halfway and sent winger Gardner over for their third try.
Second rower Gareth Hock pulled back a try, his first for 15 months, and, even though Saints dominated the final quarter, Wigan defended stoutly.
The pressure paid off when centre Willie Talau went over for his side?s fourth try but Wigan managed further consolation when winger Brett Dallas went over for a third try a minute from the end and Dobson kicked the conversion.
The home side finished with 12 men following the sin-binning of Orr for a professional foul that enabled Lyon to wrap up the scoring with his sixth goal from seven attempts.
Wigan (0) 14. Tries: Richards, Hock, Dallas. Goals: Dobson.
St Helens (14) 28. Tries: Lyon, Meli, Gardner, Talau. Goals: Lyon 6.
Referee: A Klein