Wigan spoil Ben Barba’s debut

Wigan Warriors showed no signs of a Wembley hangover as the grinded out a 26-16 win over St Helens at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

An early double for Oliver Gildart set the tone for Wigan, who raced into a 14-0 lead after 15 minutes. St Helens gave a first start to fullback Ben Barba, who crossed for a try in the first half to reduce the deficit to ten points at halftime.

Wigan began the second half like they began the first, with Anthony Gelling and George Williams crossing before Saints made a comeback. Zeb Taia and Tommy Makinson scored in quick succession but a late penalty goal from Williams sealed the win for the Warriors.

The visitors got off to flying start, with Gildart scoring two tries in the opening five minutes to establish at 12-point advantage early on.

The Wigan centre went over for the first try of the night, when a lovely cut-out ball from Sam Tomkins released winger Joe Burgess down the left-hand side. Burgess had the presence of mind to feed the ball back on the inside to the supporting Gildart to score. Williams converted the extras.

Only three minutes had passed when Wigan crossed again, with St Helens losing the ball in their own half after a poor pass from Barba was spilled by Ryan Morgan. Gildart was again on hand to pick up the loose ball, having too much speed for Barba to cross for his second. Williams again slotted over the conversion to take the scores to 12-0.

Williams added a penalty in the 14th minute to extend the lead to 14, before St Helens hit back thanks to their star fullback.

Barba scored one of his trademark tries from an attacking scrum, weaving across the line before having the ball stripped in the act of scoring before putting the ball down. The Saints fullback grounded the ball shortly after before the video referee gave the try. The conversion was missed by Mark Percival.

St Helens could have closed the gap even further, had it not been for a fantastic try-saving tackle from Tomkins on Reagan Grace. Grace chose to back himself close to the line before Tomkins forced the Saints flyer into touch to leave the scores at 14-4 going into halftime.

Wigan withstood some early pressure at the start of the second half before scoring back-to-back tries to open up a 20-point lead after 52 minutes.

Firstly, Gelling crossed after a slick, flowing move from Wigan found space for the centre to slide over the line. On the next set of six, Joe Burgess found space out wide before bursting down the field. The winger composed himself before passing back on the inside for Williams to score. The two tries were converted by the latter to take the score out to 24-4.

St Helens refused to go down without a fight and scored two quick tries themselves thanks to Taia and Makinson.

Second-rower Taia, playing his 100th Super League game, ran a great line close to the Wigan try line to crash over before Makinson, after a good offload from Dominic Peyroux, touched the ball down to bring his team back into the contest. Percival converted both to take them within eight points of Wigan.

Wigan showed their defensive steel to hang on, with Williams adding a late penalty goal to confirm the win and close the gap on third place Hull FC to two points.