WARRINGTON Wolves ensured St Helens’ League Leaders’ Shield celebrations will have to wait after they inflicted a heavy defeat on the table-topping hosts in Super League Round 26.
Wolves, banishing the recent nightmare that was the Challenge Cup semi-final defeat to Leeds Rhinos, continued their winning spell over Saints at Langtree Park.
The victory was, however, marred by a double leg fracture for Simon Grix and the sight of Ben Westwood limping off in the first half.
Shannon McDonnell’s try broke the deadlock but Wolves hit back through Stefan Ratchford, Michael Monaghan, Gareth O’Brien and Joel Monaghan, before Willie Manu narrowed the advantage.
Richie Myler, Joel Monaghan and Ryan Atkins all crossed after the break to complete the rout for Tony Smith’s side.
It took the hosts less than four minutes to put the first points on the board as Paul Wellens fed Anthony Laffranchi.
The second-rower offloaded as he span in the tackle for McDonnell to scoot through and finish between the posts. Tommy Makinson converted.
Joint-skipper Michael Monaghan looked to lift his side and watched Ryan Atkins retain possession superbly after O’Brien’s cross-field kick was fumbled by a Saints defender.
Wolves were awarded a penalty near the sticks when Wellens stopped Monaghan from playing the ball at dummy half and it was quickly spun wide for Ratchford, starting at centre, to weave through the Saints line and touch down.
The try scorer was unable to add the extras from the kick.
With 10 minutes played, Joel Monaghan did well to recover and dive on a loose ball after Jordan Turner had kicked through, but was injured in the process by Josh Jones and Wolves were awarded the penalty.
Moments later, with the ball back in St Helens territory, Makinson beat Rhys Evans to Myler’s grubber over the hosts’ line.
O’Brien was continuing to cause problems with his kicking off the last tackle and with 16 minutes played his high kick allowed Wolves, led by Myler, to force full back McDonnell back over his own line.
Wolves’ pressure was beginning to grow and twice in quick succession Myler and Simon Grix very stopped narrowly short.
However Grix, who has endured an injury-hit season, was injured in the tackle and had to be stretchered off to be replaced by Trent Waterhouse.
Ben Harrison was next to be held up short, but from the play-the-ball a superb dummy from Michael Monaghan sold the Saints defence the wrong way and he nipped in from close range to give Wolves the lead. Ratchford converted.
The league leaders appeared rattled, especially when Makinson knocked on a simple catch from an over-hit Myler kick.
It gave Wolves the put in 20 metres out, and after repeat plays worked possession right it was moved back inside for Myler, who found half-back partner O’Brien at speed and his jinking run earned him a sixth try of the season. Ratchford added the extras.
Saints appeared to be shaken and almost immediately from kick off substitute Waterhouse broke their defensive line.
The powerful Australian did not quite have the legs to go it alone, instead passing on to Myler who fed Joel Monaghan on his shoulder to go the distance.
Ratchford added the extras from in front of the posts to give Wolves a 16-point lead after 26 minutes.
Saints hit back shortly after the half hour when Wellens fed Manu at speed before the substitute sidestepped Matty Russell to reduce the deficit with a converted score.
Wolves nearly conjured an instant reply, but Evans was unable to hold Atkins’ pass wide out.
Evans then thought he had successfully gone 80 metres to score in the corner, but referee James Child pulled the game back for a knock on.
Myler dropped a goal seconds before the half-time hooter to send Wolves in 11 points to the good.
Saints started the second period with the same intensity that had seen them take an early lead in the first, twice driving full back Russell over his try line after gathering the kick.
They thought they had found a reply with five minutes of the second half played, but Makinson was only able to ground once a Saints grubber had gone dead.
And within three minutes Wolves had increased their advantage, with Micky Higham collecting from dummy half and sending Myler over via a neat sidestep. Ratchford was unable to add the conversion.
Looking to be feeling the pressure of a potential League Leaders’ Shield, Saints could only look on as Wolves increased the gap to 21 points.
O’Brien’s high kick was chased by Myler, but he was a long way from Turner as the loose forward spilled the ball into the path of Joel Monaghan.
Wolves’ top try scorer showed he is equally adept with the ball at his feet by side-footing over the try line before grounding unopposed in front of the travelling primrose and blue fans. Ratchford converted.
Saints’ ventures in to the Wolves half were rare, and the hosts found themselves further behind when Atkins capitalised on another mistake.
Lance Hohaia sent a pass behind his onrushing teammates and it bounced kindly for Atkins to scoop up and sprint almost 40 metres before diving between the posts. O’Brien kicked the extras.
With five minutes remaining Ratchford chipped into the path of Joel Monaghan but the Australian centre was beaten by the bounce.
Higham then attempted to force his way over between the posts, but was denied a try by the video referee.
Wolves had long wrapped up the result and boosted their chances of securing a home tie in the play-offs, as well as a potential World Club Series spot.