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Page last updated at 18:29 GMT, Sunday, 20 June 2010 19:29 UK

Wigan 24-26 St Helens

Wigan (6) 24
Tries: K Pryce, Leuluai, McIlorum, Gleeson Goals: Richards 4

St Helens (16) 26
Tries: L Pryce, Meli, Roby, Wellens, Foster Goals: Foster 3


Paul Wellens
Paul Wellens' seventh Super League try of the season turned the game

St Helens threw the title race open with a stunning derby victory over old rivals Wigan at the DW Stadium.

Third-placed Saints looked on course to do it with ease when they led 26-12 with just eight minutes left.

Second-half tries from Paul Wellens and Jamie Foster had added to first-half efforts from Leon Pryce, Francis Meli and James Roby.

But late tries from Michael McIlorum and Martin Gleeson gave Saints a very uncomfortable last five minutes.

After trailing 16-2 just before the break, Wigan had earlier given themselves hope with tries either side of the interval from Karl Pryce and Thomas Leuluai.

Saints now move within four points of Wigan, who now lead by just two from second-placed Warrington in this season's private Lancashire battle for the title.

Saints' win avenged their 18-10 home defeat by Wigan in the last derby game at Knowsley Road on Good Friday.

Despite missing six first-team players, Mick Potter's men had just enough to see off Michael Maguire's table-toppers.

England rejects Pryce and Wellens, overlooked once again for last weekend's win over France, were the major inspiration behind the win that included three quick first-half tries in a devastating spell that blew Wigan away.

Pryce outshone Sam Tomkins, his successor in the national side, while Wellens was practically faultless at full-back under a barrage of pressure from the home side.

Wigan had started the brighter of the two and dominated possession in the opening exchanges, but only had Pat Richards' ninth-minute penalty to show for their efforts.

Saints were unusually subdued and did not touch the ball in Wigan's half inside the first 15 minutes, before two moments of Leon Pryce magic propelled them into a lead they would not surrender.

The stand-off landed a superb 40-20 kick to ease some of the pressure that had been building on his side's defence and, from the resulting scrum, he collected the ball and stepped through the tackles of Phil Bailey and Tomkins, allowing Foster an easy conversion.

Saints harnessed the momentum, adding a second score after 25 minutes thanks to some individual brilliance from Samoan winger Meli, who kicked ahead of Iafeta Paleaaesina before squeezing around the prop to score with his fingertips just before he crashed into touch - his eight try in five games.

Roby then took advantage of lapse defending to scoot over from 10 yards, although the score owed a great deal to two breaks from Meli that amounted to a total of 50 metres.

Wigan should have got back into it when Joel Tomkins broke clear, only for Richards to put down the easiest of passes with a clear route to the line ahead of him, before Karl Pryce's close-range score, his 12th in eight games, just before the half-time hooter.

The home side then carried on where they had left off when Leuluai swatted away Scott Moore's tackle to bend his way over the line within two minutes of the resumption, Richards' subsequent goal bringing the Warriors to within four points.

A crucial forward pass by Mark Riddell lost Wigan momentum, Saints cashing in at the other end when Wellens squeezed his way over.

Foster thought he had put the seal on the win with a try created by Paul Clough's hit on Joel Tomkins that allowed Moore to sprint 70 metres clear for the visitors.

But McIlorum bulldozed his way over with eight minutes to go and Gleeson snatched a score of his own two minutes later - but it was too little, too late.


Wigan coach Michael Maguire said:

"We probably didn't achieve the things we set out to in the first half but we did in the second.

"It was a credit to St Helens that they hung in there and managed to get away with the points. It looked as though we had worn them down."

St Helens coach Mick Potter said:

"That was one of our best and I think there's a little bit more we can do.

"They put some pressure on us in the second half and we withstood it. We can play better but I don't doubt our resilience and courage under pressure.

"Leon Pryce fired a couple out of the cannon. He performed as a leader does.

"And Paul Wellens was faultless at full-back, fielding some difficult kicks. Wigan were mounting a lot of pressure and there were numerous try-saving tackles he came up with. I don't think there's a better positional full-back in the league."


Wigan: Richards, Roberts, Gleeson, Carmont, K Pryce, S Tomkins, Leuluai, Fielden, McIlorum, Coley, Bailey, J Tomkins, Farrell.
Replacements: Riddell, Prescott, Paleaaesina, Tuson.

St Helens: Wellens, Foster, Gidley, Flannery, Meli, L Pryce, Moore, Graham, Cunningham, Hargreaves, Clough, Dixon, Puletua.
Replacements: Roby, Johnson, Ashurst, Fozzard.

Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington).

Attendance: 20,498.



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see also
Wakefield 6-48 Wigan
13 Jun 10 |  My Club
St Helens 30-22 Huddersfield
11 Jun 10 |  My Club
St Helens 10-18 Wigan
02 Apr 10 |  My Club
Rugby League on the BBC
15 Oct 10 |  Rugby League
Rugby league commentaries
03 Apr 10 |  Rugby League


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