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St Helens 14-10 Wigan


St Helens (10) 14
Tries: Meli 2, Long Goals: Eastmond
Wigan (6) 10
Tries: Carmont, Richards Goal: Richards

Sean Long & Kyle Eastmond

Highlights - Long guides St Helens to Grand Final

By Phil Dawkes

St Helens set up a third successive Grand Final against Leeds Rhinos with a hard-fought semi-final win over Wigan.

Francis Meli crossed early on for Saints but Kyle Eastmond failed with the conversion in windy conditions.

George Carmont's converted try then put Wigan ahead before Sean Long's score gave Saints a 10-6 half time lead.

Meli scored again for Saints before Pat Richards went over for Wigan but the Warriors were unable to give departing coach Brian Noble a fairytale ending.

Matches between these two fierce rivals are big encounters in normal circumstances but with a Grand Final appearance on the line, a new dynamic was added and both rose to the occasion.

For the last two years Wigan have fallen at this hurdle in the play-offs and, coming off the back of successive victories over Castleford and Hull KR, they battled hard.

Saints though are a different proposition to the Warriors' two previous play-off opponents and possess not only the players to hurt any side, but also the appetite for revenge against a Leeds Rhinos side who have beaten them in the last two Grand Finals and now lie in wait for them again.

The home side drew first blood with barely three minutes on the clock when the exciting, elusive Eastmond broke through a trio of flailing Wigan tackles before feeding Meli to score unchallenged in the corner.

As an indication of the difficulty the players would have coping with the swirling wind at Knowsley Road, Eastmond's convertion kick drifted well wide of the posts.

It was the first time the Warriors had been behind in their play-off campaign and had it not been for Richards' foot just edging into touch as he stretched to touch down in the corner, they would have found parity almost immediately.

606: DEBATE
MrMeatAndPotatoePie

Wigan were level midway through the half and again the wind played a significant part.

Sam Tompkins' high kick caught the swirling breeze, causing uncertainty in the Saints defence, and while Richards missed his catch for the visitors, Saints' Ade Gardner hesitated, allowing Carmont to collect and touch down under the posts.

Given a more beneficial position than Eastmond, Richards made no mistake with his conversion.

As Wigan had done earlier, Saints' response to conceding was immediate and if possible Meli's attempt to touch down in the corner was even closer than Richards', but video replays showed his boot just grazed the whitewash.

Saints scrum-half Long will be leaving Knowsley Road this winter after 12 influential years with the club and it was he again who produced a big contribution in a big match.

George Carmont is congratulated
Carmont is congratulated by teammates after scoring for Wigan

With the home side close to the Wigan line, Long collected and jinked through a tight gap in the visitors' defence to touch down just inside the line and provide a comfortable position from which Eastmond could add the extras.

In a mirror of the first half, Saints burst out of the blocks in the second and once again Meli punished the visitors.

Long's long pass wide exploited Amos Roberts stepping out of the Wigan defensive line and found winger Meli to ground the ball in the left-hand corner.

With Saints seemingly destined for Old Trafford, Wigan gave themselves hope of upsetting the odds with 10 minutes to go.

From deep in their own half, Tompkins released an inside pass that set Richards clear and he looked to have the legs but chose to kick and chase 10 yards from the line.

At first it looked to have been a disastrous choice but the ball sat up for him and he was able to collect and score.

Unfortunately for the visitors, Richards was unable to add the conversion from the touchline.

In the dying moments a resolute Saints defence successfully repelled increasingly desperate Wigan attacks, leaving Saints to plan another assault on Old Trafford and Wigan to contemplate another play-off semi-final defeat.

The Warriors also face a search for a new coach this winter, with Noble confirming after the match that he would be stepping down as their coach.


St Helens coach Mick Potter:
"It was a really good performance from us against a very determined team.

"You could sense both teams were desperate to win to get to the next stage.

"It's great to get the result and be going to Old Trafford. There were some really special things done by us to stop them scoring."

Wigan coach Brian Noble:
"I'm absolutely thrilled for the players and the way they played but I'm gutted and devastated at the way they've gone out of the competition.

"I don't think they got what they deserved. They should be really proud of themselves.

"On any other day we would have come away with the spoils but we didn't. The rugby Gods weren't with us."


St Helens: Wellens, Gardner, Gidley, Eastmond, Meli, Pryce, Long, Graham, Cunningham, Puletua, Flannery, Wilkin, Gilmour, Clough.
Replacements: Roby, Hargreaves, Clough, Fa'asavalu.

Wigan: Phelps, Roberts, Gleeson, Carmont, Richards, S. Tomkins, Leuluai, Coley, Riddell, Prescott, J. Tomkins, Hansen, O'Loughlin.
Replacements: Fielden, Paleaaesina, Flanagan, Mossop.

Referee: S Ganson (St Helens)



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see also
Coach Noble confirms Wigan exit
03 Oct 09 |  Wigan
Leeds 27-20 Catalans
02 Oct 09 |  Rugby League
I turned down Wigan move - Long
02 Oct 09 |  St Helens
Potter happy with Long commitment
30 Sep 09 |  St Helens
Leeds choose Catalans in play-off
27 Sep 09 |  Rugby League
Hull KR 16-30 Wigan
26 Sep 09 |  Rugby League
St Helens 15-2 Huddersfield
19 Sep 09 |  Rugby League
Road to Old Trafford
25 Sep 09 |  Rugby League
Super League Show
17 Feb 08 |  Rugby League


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