St Helens 16-24 Wigan Warriors

Marquee signing Ben Barba scored a try on his eagerly-awaited Betfred Super League debut but finished on the losing side as Wigan Warriors bounced back in style from their Wembley disappointment to secure a precious 26-16 derby victory over St Helens.
The Warriors never looked back after centre Oliver Gildart grabbed two tries in the first five minutes, although Barba’s 22nd-minute score gave St Helens hope and second-half tries from Zeb Taia and Tommy Makinson added a touch of respectability to the score.

Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin produced an immense performance to keep alive his side’s bid to retain their league title a week on from their Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final defeat by Hull FC.

Scrum-half George Williams added a 51th-minute try to his five goals while Anthony Gelling also touched down a second-half score to help the reigning Super League champions move to within two points of third-placed Hull.

The Warriors will look to avenge their cup final defeat when they take on Lee Radford’s side at the KC Stadium next Friday, while St Helens drop to sixth with their semi-final hopes hanging by a thread after they failed to recover from a shocking start to the match.

Wigan boss Shaun Wane was delighted with his side’s performance.

“I’m very pleased,” he said. “This is a great place to come and get a win, especially when you’re under a fair bit of pressure.

“We’ve had illness throughout the camp this week. That’s why Ryan Sutton didn’t play, Micky McIlorum has been horrendous and Lockers (Sean O’Loughlin) has had it.

“To show that toughness out there is outstanding, I’m very proud of them. Overall we were very good today.”

“Everything was going for St Helens today,” Wane added. “They’ve talked about this for two weeks and had the weekend off and they had a great NRL player coming in. It was an outstanding win.

“I’ve not looked at the table for a while but I just knew we had to win this today after last Saturday. It was a really important win for us. We now have to roll into Hull next week really confident and put a few things right from Wembley.”

Saints coach Justin Holbrook believes his side’s poor start ultimately cost them, he said: “It was not a great start but I thought we recovered.

“We clawed our way back but missed a few chances towards the end of the first half which hurt us in the end.

“We needed to win tonight but we didn’t so now we’re in a situation where we’re relying on other teams. All we can do is concentrate on winning at Wakefield next week.”

Holbrook admitted it was a tough decision to leave out stand-off Theo Fages, with Jonny Lomax switching from full-back to accommodate Barba, but insisted it was the right decision.

“Theo has been going well for us but we went with four big men on the bench and I think it was the right call,” he said.

“I thought Ben was good. He hadn’t played for a long time but he tried hard for the 80 minutes and he’ll definitely be better for the run.”