By Phil Harlow
BBC Sport at the Millennium Stadium
St Helens 32-16 Wigan
CHALLENGE CUP FINAL
St Helens 32 (20)
Tries: Gilmour, Talau 2, Wellens, Sculthorpe
Goals: Long 6
Wigan 16 (10)
Tries: Newton, Dallas 2
Goals: Farrell 2
St Helens, inspired by the under-fire Sean Long, outclassed a brave Wigan side to take a well deserved victory in the Challenge Cup final.
In front of a sell-out 73,734 crowd, tries from Lee Gilmour, Willie Talau (2), Paul Wellens and Paul Sculthorpe - allied to Long's six kicks at goal - took them clear of the Warriors.
Wigan, who had two tries disallowed by the video referee, scored through Terry Newton and Brett Dallas' brace.
But St Helens always had the edge after a powerful display from their set of forwards provided the platform.
St Helens made a perfect start with a try inside four minutes as they capitalised on Kris Radlinski's mistake in defence.
Attempting to put in a clearing kick, Radlinski was tap-tackled by Jason Hooper and saw his attempted kick bobble to Talau who released Lee Gilmour for the opening try.
Wigan came close to an instant response when Andy Farrell appeared to have burst through Martin Gleeson's tackle but the video official ruled a knock-on.
Danny Orr's probing kicks helped keep St Helens on the back foot and, after a series of Saints drop-outs, Wigan equalised through Newton's superb try.
Keeping the ball alive brilliantly, Wigan engineered the space for Adrian Lam to burst through and his chip over bounced perfectly for Newton to pick up and score.
Keiron Cunningham's ambitious offload almost cost St Helens dear as Kevin Brown hoovered up the loose ball and went over but again the try was ruled out for a knock-on.
Long, who deservedly won the Lance Todd Man of the Match trophy, edged Saints back into the lead with a well-struck penalty on 20 minutes.
And it was Long's kicking game which provided the catalyst for Saints' second try. His perfectly-placed diagonal kick behind the Wigan defence sat up for Talau to dive over.
Saints winger Darren Albert had another potential try disallowed for having a foot in touch and Wigan made the most of their escape to close the gap through Brett Dallas' 30th-minute try.
Farrell's mighty tackle on Gleeson regained possession for Wigan and a cut-out pass put Dallas away in the corner.
But Saints, fortunate not to have Dom Feaunati sin-binned for a high tackle, finished the half the stronger as Paul Wellens' magical score moved them into a 20-10 half-time lead.
The ball went through eight pairs of hands before giving Wellens the space to go over from close range.
Five minutes after the break, Radlinski made amends for his first-half error with a spectacular cover tackle at the corner flag just as Albert was about to score.
Wigan soon found themselves further behind though as Saints skipper Paul Sculthorpe muscled his way over after a rush of blood from Wigan's Brown who gave the ball back to St Helens.
Long's second penalty, his sixth successful kick at goal of the match, put St Helens into a 28-10 lead with 20 minutes remaining.
Dallas' second try of the match, after an awesome break from Radlinski, gave Wigan hope of a comeback.
But those hopes were extinguished by Talau's second try after a lovely chip and gather from Long got Saints in behind the Wigan defence.
St Helens: Wellens; Gardner, Gleeson, Talau, Albert; Hooper, Long; Fozzard, Cunningham, Mason, Joynt, Gilmour, Sculthorpe (capt). Subs: Feaunati, Bibey, Edmondson, Wilkin.
Wigan: Radlinski; Hodgson, O'Loughlin, Brown, Dallas; Orr, Lam; C Smith, Newton, Pongia, Hock, Tickle, Farrell (capt). Subs: O'Connor, Sculthorpe, Cassidy, Wild.
Referee: Karl Kirkpatrick (Warrington).