Wigan End Good Friday Derby Drought With Emphatic Win Over St Helens

Harry Smith and Toby King provided the tries for Wigan’s win.
17:10, 07 Apr 2023

Wigan Warriors ended their drought without a Good Friday derby win as they defeated St Helens 14-6 at the DW Stadium.

Matty Peet’s side haven’t won the derby against Saints on Good Friday for six years, but the side came up trumps in all departments against a Saints side that uncharacteristically struggled to deal with the intensity today. 

St Helens kicked to get us underway at the packed-out DW Stadium. Both sides kept it clean in the opening exchanges, completing their sets without error. The first try came on the ninth minute as Wigan playmaker Harry Smith crossed the line after a quick break down the left. A skip pass from Smith found Jake Wardle, and he returned the favour to get past Jack Welsby and opened the scoring. He converted the kick also to get the Warriors six points ahead after the opening ten minutes. 

Saints seemed to struggle to find their route into the game. Paul Wellens’ side likes to suffocate teams with rapid line speed and big hits, but Wigan were happy to concede field position and keep turning Saints around with kicks. 

A late hit on Bevan French by Mark Percival started a string of penalties within Saints’ ten metre mark, and it resulted in Smith taking two-points to add onto the 6-0 lead. He kicked with ease in front of the sticks, and any the momentum was with Wigan with little time left in the first half. 

Just before half time, Wigan’s outstanding defence came to the fore, with French stopping England full-back Tommy Makinson as he accelerated towards the tryline unopposed. Liam Marshall aided as they not only forced Makinson to knock on, but also put him into touch. A moment in the game that summed up Wigan’s effort and execution so far. 

The half-time hooter sounded following more defending from Wigan, notably Liam Farrell stopping Jonny Lomax from finding a simple pass to Matty Lees which would’ve surely been a try, as well as Joe Shorrocks showing why his head coach brought him back into the fold after his loan spell at Leigh. Shorrocks dragged Welsby out of play in the final play of the half and the crowd erupted with applause for the young man filling in at stand-off today. 

The second half got off to a slower start, with Saints barely managing to escape their own half as Wigan piled on the pressure. A late hit by Sione Mata’utia on Shorrocks gave Wigan a penalty and more opportunity for yardage and eventually got another try for the board. Irish centre Toby King found a bit of space after receiving a bullet pass from his fullback French, and added another try to his tally for the season. Smith kicked the added two points and Wigan had a commanding lead worthy of their performance. 

Saints grabbed a try back as Lomax got on the end of a grubber from Lewis Dodd. Wigan were caught out by the perfect weight of the kick, and the cracks are starting to show in a Wigan defence that had done it’s job valiantly up until this point. Percival added the two points from in front of the posts. 

As if someone said the game was now ‘on’, both sides ramped up the intensity. Wigan committed plenty of men in every tackle, and Saints were intent on forcing errors with their own power in the tackles. 

Saints had the ball down over the line once more, but Morgan Knowles was judged to have dropped the ball. Shorrocks threw himself into the loose forward’s shoulder and he did indeed lose it just before it was grounded. A try-saving moment for the Wigan youngster and despair for Saints who were well worth another score. 

Saints were starting to lose their heads, as the crowd raised the volume levels. Morgan Smithies and Curtis Sironen squared off as the Saints man unnecessary left a bit on the Wigan forward, and Sione Mata’utia knocked himself unconscious as he threw himself at break-neck speed towards Ethan Havard, but ended up worse off. The Aussie-born Samoan was stretchered off after the collision, and the game was paused for around 15 minutes. It was a nasty one, and we hope he’s on the mend as soon as possible. 

Mike Cooper was also an unfortunate casualty after it looked like he twisted his knee within the Saints five metres. Wigan were unable to capitalise from their field position, leaving five minutes for Saints to score twice. Their last chance came in a one-vs-one opportunity between French and Welsby, a battle that has been raging on since that famous final in lockdown. French downed Welsby with a huge hit, and Saints were forced to turnover. 

The final hooter sounded and Wigan’s victory was confirmed. A first Good Friday victory in this derby for six years. Man of the match surely goes the way of Joe Shorrocks. A young man who perhaps wasn’t expected to have a future at Wigan, but was pivotal to the Warriors’ victory with huge tackles and great charges to earn field position. 

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