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Page last updated at 21:00 GMT, Saturday, 12 February 2011

St Helens 16-16 Wigan

St Helens (0) 16
Tries: Wilkin, Puletua, Meli Goals: Foster 2
Wigan (12) 16
Tries: Hoffman, Hansen, Carmont Goals: Deacon, S Tomkins

Francis Meli celebrates his  try
Francis Meli's try brought the scores level in a dramatic finale

By Ged Scott
BBC Sport at the Millennium Stadium

Champions Wigan surrendered a 16-point lead with only 15 minutes left to allow rivals St Helens a shock share of the spoils at the Millennium Stadium.

The Warriors looked in control after George Carmont added to first-half tries from Aussie debutant Ryan Hoffman and substitute Harrison Hansen.

But Saints' Jon Wilkin, Tony Puletua and Francis Meli all crossed, Jamie Foster converting the first two.

But Foster's third kick missed, as did Kyle Eastmond's late drop goal attempt.

And, although Saints were frustrated at not avenging their Super League Grand Final defeat by Wigan at Old Trafford in October, when the dust settles, in his first game as coach, Royce Simmons will be relieved to have come away with a draw.

Wigan were without their injured duo, new signing Brett Finch and last season's record-breaking points machine Pat Richards.

They also lost another key man, fit-again winger Amos Roberts, when his wife into labour and he was given permission to head off and attend the birth of his latest child. But this was still a game the champions were expecting to win.

After soaking up almost 10 minutes of early St Helens pressure, Wigan scored in their first proper attack.

Skipper Sean O'Loughlin was twice tellingly involved in a flowing cross-field move which eventually ended with youngster Josh Charnley slipping the ball inside for Hoffman.

The Aussie debutant acrobatically planted it over the line at full stretch as he was tackled, Paul Deacon adding the extras.

Hooker James Roby, now finally officially unveiled as Keiron Cunningham's replacement, came close to a reply on 25 minutes but the video replay showed he had not got the ball down.

Instead, five minutes later, it was Wigan who stretched their lead.

Full-back Sam Tomkins' up-and-under caused pandemonium in the Saints' back line as Paul Wellens and Francis Meli left this bouncing bomb to each other.

And Harrison Hansen, freshly arrived from the bench, was there to cash in, scooping up the ball before twisting to force his way over.

Saints then had another one chalked off before half-time when a knock-on denied England centre Michael Shenton a debut try.

Having lived dangerously at times as they survived a lot of first-half pressure from Saints, it was a far from comfortable 12-0 half-time lead for Wigan.

But they started to see daylight 10 minutes after the break when a swift exchange of passes between Thomas Leuluai, O'Loughlin and Liam Farrell presented centre Carmont to slide in at the left corner.

Tomkins missed the conversion from wide out but it still looked all over for Saints.

However, Wilkin began the recovery when he powered over 15 minutes from time, Foster converting.

And, five minutes later, Puletua caused real consternation among the large proportion of Wigan fans among the 30,891 crowd when he too sneaked through the Wigan defence.

Wigan then made a bold attempt to go back up the field and find a match-clinching try of their own.

But instead, Saints came up with the goods, Meli finding the space to go in at the left corner.

The touchline conversion was a tough one, Foster pulling it wide. And that allowed Wigan the chance to counter attack, looking for a drop goal to win it.

But Tomkins' one long-distance attempt to snatch it missed. And, with the last play of the game, and the hooter gone, Eastmond, also pulled his effort wide with an even better chance.

St Helens coach Royce Simmons said:

"I'm happy to get the one point at the end of it, having been so far behind. It was a good result for us.

"We weren't playing the smartest football in the world by any means but it was a courageous effort. I knew they wouldn't give in and I knew they are very fit.

"Some of the forwards played tremendous. I thought Robes was just fantastic and Scotty Moore played well too.

"We crossed the line a few times in the first half and we might have got some confidence if we had scored. We got a bit nervous and we didn't attack like we know we can attack but we hung in there."

Wigan coach Michael Maguire said:

"It's credit to St Helens to be able to come back into the game. When you've got the ball, you've got to hang on to it. In the second half St Helens did that.

"Unfortunately, we let ourselves down in a number of areas in our defence which we are normally very sharp at.

"In the first half we were outstanding with our scrambled defence close to our line. It was a great effort from our boys.

"It's good to get away with one point. There are things we can definitely work on. We will get a lot out of that game."

St Helens: Wellens, Gardner, Shenton, Lomax, Meli, Wheeler, Eastmond, Graham, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Wilkin, Moore.
Replacements: Puletua, Clough, Foster, Dixon.

Wigan: S. Tomkins, Goulding, Gleeson, Carmont, Charnley, Deacon, Leuluai, Lima, McIlorum, Coley, Hoffman, J. Tomkins, O'Loughlin.
Replacements: Hansen, Prescott, Mossop, Farrell.

Referee: Richard Silverwood (Dewsbury).

Att: 30,891

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see also
Super League form guide 2011
09 Feb 11 |  My Club
St Helens season preview 2011
11 Feb 11 |  St Helens
Wigan season preview 2011
10 Feb 11 |  Wigan
St Helens 10-22 Wigan Warriors
02 Oct 10 |  My Club

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