IT was another pulsating clash between these two neighbours but once again, Warrington Wolves finished on the wrong side of the scoreline.

St Helens ran out 18-6 winners at The Halliwell Jones Stadium to maintain their hopes of winning the League Leaders' Shield, while The Wire's play-off bid will also go down to the final round of fixtures next week.

Here, our Wire reporter Matt Turner assesses five key talking points to emerge from the Round 26 clash...

Warrington Guardian:

A familiar tale of so near, yet so far

Unfortunately, Wire have become painfully used to finishing games against St Helens having fallen agonisingly short.

Like Saints’ previous two visits to The Halliwell Jones Stadium, this was a game Warrington were very much in but once again, they could not quite overhaul their formidable neighbours.

St Helens are a winning machine who are used to closing out these kinds of games, and it is a skill Wire are yet to master.

Having soaked up wave after wave of pressure in the first half, they had the better of the second half and it required three remarkable try-saving efforts – one of them illegal as it turned out with Jon Bennison sent to the sin bin late on – to keep the Saints line intact.

Warrington may well go on to make the play-offs from here and if they do, they got a demonstration of the kind of ruthlessness they need to have if they are to make a dent.

A victory for “the dark arts?”

For much of the second half, St Helens will not mind telling you that they were hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

And in doing so, they used tactics that frustrate the life out of opposition fans but are undoubtedly effective.

Their defensive intensity marks them out and has been a key part of their sustained period of success – they back themselves to defend their way out of any situation.

To help them do that, though, they are clearly happy to push the line of legality as far as it will go in terms of slowing the ruck down. Conceding “six agains” and penalties does not seem to bother them.

That was certainly evident in the second half, but it left plenty of Wire fans thinking their side had fallen victim to “the dark arts.”

Hayes shows the future is in good hands

Making your home Super League debut for your hometown club against the nearest and dearest – quite an occasion for Leon Hayes to be thrust into.

Gary Chambers has often affirmed that the diminutive scrum-half is the future of the club’s half-back shirt, and tonight was a big chance to show that future is in good hands.

Given his stature, St Helens threw plenty of traffic his way defensively but he stood up to all of it superbly and grew with confidence with the ball.

Indeed, many post-match reflections wondered if he could have been given more of the ball, given his kicks tended to cause the most problems for the opposition.

How he handled such an occasion so early in his career certainly bodes well for Hayes going forward.

Making life hard for themselves again

Not many teams fight back from a 12-point deficit against this St Helens side, even though Warrington gave it a pretty good go in the end.

However, they gave themselves a little too much to do in a first half they spent largely inside their own half.

A quote from Gary Chambers’ pre-match press conference springs to mind; ““You’ve got to be on your game or you’re going to spend the game coming out of your own 20 and getting bashed up.”

In the first 25 minutes particularly, that is exactly what happened as the basic errors that punctuated the game against Salford were still prevalent.

You simply cannot give a side of this quality free opportunities to attack your line and if anything, Wire did very well to be only 12 points behind at the break.

That was down to their defensive commitment, but they certainly made life hard for themselves once again.

Win and you’re in

And so it comes down to the final game and a trip to Huddersfield Giants next week.

The full permutations won’t be known until later on Saturday evening after Hull KR and Salford Red Devils – the two sides either side of Wire in the table – have faced each other.

While it would mean fifth place would be out of reach, a Rovers win is probably the ideal result as it would mean Wire would hold their fate in their own hands.

Aside from all of that, though, Warrington simply need to focus on getting a win and let everything else take care of itself.