MISSED PENALTY! Wigan 4 – 4 St Helens (Zak Hardaker)
78 mins. The ball sails into the Humberside night and it looks to have the legs, but it’s just short!
77 mins. Fages has a shy at a drop-goal from forty metres out which is low, short and ugly. Wigan are back on the ball and have a penalty for offside after Fages obstructs form a not square position at the play of the ball, and Hardaker is having a go from 55 metres!
76 mins. Bevan French claims yet another kick under pressure as Sean O’Loughlin joins the game for the final time from the bench.
PENALTY! Wigan 4 – 4 St Helens (Lachlan Coote)
72 mins. Easy two points for the Saints fullback. We’re all square with few minutes left and the golden point beckons.
72 mins. Jackson Hastings connects with the head of Fages in the tackle on the Wigan 2o metre line. Penalty Saints and Coote is lining it up.
TRY! Wigan 4 – 2 St Helens (Jake Bibby)
67 mins. St Helens do an awful job of bringing it out and the horrible end to the set is a deflected kick that puts Wigan back on the ball on the Saints 20m. Same move as before, Leuluai to French to Bibby and this time the big winger makes no mistake with his dive.
Zak Hardaker’s conversion bounces back off the posts.
63 mins. Wigan have an attack up the right, with French joining the line to fire it to Bibby on the wing. It opens up a little bit and the Warriors winger tries to slide over from about seven metres and stops dead after roughly three. Admire his ambition but that was a little comical in the watching.
61 mins. Gildart finds a sliver of open pasture on the left and makes a good fifteen metres into Saints half. A perfect kick then puts Fages under pressure and he’s bundled over his own in-goal for Saints to have a turn at kicking a drop-out from under the posts.
59 mins. As James Graham warms up to come on for his last ever 20 mins, Saints are back on the attack in the middle channel on halfway. Fages puts a tall kick into the corner but Makinson is pinged for playing Burgess in the air.
55 mins. Willie Isa throws a horrible forward pass on his own ten metre line to hand possession to Saints in a great position. On the 5th, the indefatigable Roby has a drive for the line from 5 metres but he’s stopped dead by Joe Bullock inches short of the line.
It’s not granstand stuff this, but the energy, tenacity and skill of the defences really is something to see.
Taia was offside in front of Roby when his hooker kicked it.
54 mins. Taia is first to a Roby kick that ricocheted in-goal off Leuluai. It looked like it was dead as he grounded it and there’s a hint of him being offside in front of the kicker as well. This will be no try, I reckon.
53 mins. A beautiful chip from Johnny Lomax is fielded in-goal by Wigan, but McCarthy-Scarsbrook’s chase holds the Warriors in there again. Another drop-out, another set of six.
51 mins. St Helens up the pace in the latest set of six and the tempo of each carry sees them eat up the metres. On the 5th it’s dabbed into the left corner and all Bevan French can do is gather and take the tackle in-goal. Back come Saints from the drop-out.
49 mins. Time off as Jackson Hastings gets some treatment to a bad cut sustained bringing a big Naiqama carry to a halt. He’s OK, and we continue with French claiming a towering kick to put Wigan back in possession in their own half.
46 mins. Wigan come right towards Bibby’s wing but it’s the Saints defence’s turn to smother an attack and their pressure leads to the ball being spilled and St Helens will bring the ball out to safer ground.
43 mins. Some steadying sets from both sides open the half before Wigan get the upper hand in a defensive set that forces a long kick from Coote. Wigna are up into Saints territory after the ref calls Set Restart due to some lazy lying on in the tackle by St Helens. The Warriors force a drop-out under the sticks and will have another go from the kick return.
40 mins. The hooter sounds and Wigan receive the ball and let O’Loughlin have the first carry of the half
“Quality arm wrestle.” reckons Dan M. “Can’t last, this is going to open up nicely in the second half”
From your lips to God’s ears, Dan.
“Hey Lee, Jerusalem is the most perfect anthem for League and an incredible rendition at that.” ventures Yas Taik., “In an empty stadium, it made a roaring Headingley prior a test match seem meek.”
Not sure I agree with all of that Yas, but it was a decent belt by Ms Wright for sure.
HALF-TIME! Wigan 0 – 2 St Helens
The hooter blows and that brings the lowest scoring half in Grand Final history to a close.
PENALTY! Wigan 0 – 2 St Helens (Lachlan Coote)
40 mins. A shoulder charge by Wigan is penalised on the 20m line and the Saints fullback gets the first points of the match with his boot.
38 mins. The Sky commentary lads keeps telling us how high quality this game is. Which is the surest guarantee that it isn’t.
36 mins. Regan Grace lets a kick bounce – the gravest rugby sin – and it bubbles back towards the Wigan chase and the Warriors have it. But then it’s their turn to make a mistake as a misplaced pass to Gildart is gobbled up by Naiqama to reclaim possession for St Helens.
It’s still nil-nil, by the way.
34 mins. Leuluai is moving the ball wide earlier for Wigan and it’s paying off, especially when Gildart gets his hands on the ball and links with Hardaker. It’s another better set and the more they repel Saints attacks you have to feel they will grow into the game.
31 mins. That near miss has put some pep in Wigan’s carries and they are punching some holes through the forwards before a rash offload loses possession on half-way.
28 mins. Oliver Gildart faints beautifully left off his right foot to ghost Naiqama 10 metres out from the Saints line. The centre feeds Hardaker on the wing who steps into traffic but he’s over the line and on the ground in a pile of bodies… No try! He was held up.
Wigan, after doing nothing for so long, come closest to scoring.
26 mins. More Saints action near the Wigan line, but they are going to have to get a bit more inventive than four hit-ups and a grubber to break this Wigan defence down.
23 mins. Wigan get flustered on the 4th tackle and Leuluai throws a pass behind Hardaker. Taia is first to it but fumbles it forward to give the Warriors another set of six. it comes to nothing as Jack Welsby closes down on Bevan French to snuff out the Wigan attack.
Joe Burgess is off for a brain injury assessment.
21 mins. James Roby kicks on the 3rd tackle to look for the 40/20 and he’s this close to pulling it off. Wigan bring it out down the right via Bibby and on the next tackle it comes all the way left to Gildart who offloads to Burgess who is tackled. But the ref has spotted some obstruction by Bentley and Wigan will have their first set near the Saints line.
18 mins. Partington plays at a kick by Lomax on the last tackle ten metres out from the Wigan line and Saints will have another six tackles to break the deadlock. Naiqama grabs the ball on the 5th out wide, but he’s smothered by Wigan’s outside defensive line. It’s an incredible effort by Wigan playing pratically in reverse here, but how long can they hold these attacks back for?
15 mins. Wigan continue to struggle to have any territory at all with their carries not buttering any bread and their kick chase not rapid enough to stop St Helens’ returners driving back into Wigan territory. They will take heart, however, from the scoreboard remaining at 0-0.
11 mins. It’s another set for St Helens close to the Wigan line with their forwards on top so far with James Graham to the fore. He’s leaving none of the music in him, that’s for sure. A dab into the corner is repelled and Wigan bring it out, but can make little ground and Saints are back on the attack in the Warriors’ half.
7 mins. Taia flips Burgess over in the tackle and the ref calls a spear tackle penalty in the Wigan half. That’s daft form the Saints forward as Wigan were struggling to get out of their own territory but will not have a set in the opposition half rather than their own.
5 mins. On the drop-out return set, Lomax kicks high to the corner on the last tackle but Joe Burgess climbs high to claim it and give Wigan the chance to run it out.
4 mins. James Roby takes the ball on a short offload from James Graham and the Saints hooker is dragged down just short and under the posts. On the 5th there’s a short griubber from Roby which Walmsley nearly taps down in goal but French slaps it dead.
3 mins. Settling opening sets from each side, working it through the fowards before the kick. Everything solid so far as the sides feel each other out, before Liam Farrell is high in the tackle to give a penalty to Saints who will have a set around the Wigan 10m line.
The teams are on their way out.
“This has the makings of an absolute cracker, both teams have any number of matchwinners. I have no idea, and I’m a Wigan fan.” writes a giddy Dan M.
“Clearly want O’Loughlin to go out on a high but I would genuinely feel for James Graham if he suffers another defeat. He’s been an absolute legend and my Aussie mates (Canterbury and St George) still rave about him”
As they should, Dan.
There’s a huge video, sound and lights show projected into the stands and onto the pitch as the KCOM Stadium, showing archive clips while music bangs out. Then, after being plunged into darkness, Laura Wright appears in the spotlight to sing Jerusalem.
In the absence of crowds, that’s probably the best effort I’ve seen at some pre-match snazz, pizazz and jizz-jazz.
“Saints fan here. Feel ill with nerves. That is all.” says Barry Rowlings.
Ah, the familiar staccato chatter of a bloke trembling with apprehension.
Reflections on the careers of James Graham and Sean O’Loughlin are everywhere in the run up to this game. Some could say it’s a bit overdone, but they are wrong.
The Saints and Wigan forwards are two of the greatest rugby players and athletes the game in this country has produced; skilful, powerful, natural leaders, endurance like a Toyota Hilux and just a tough. We were lucky to have them.
Absolute Legends Department
“Body-wise I’ve been aching for about five years and, mentally, now feels like the right time to do it and end on a high”
French, Bibby, Hardaker, Gildart, Burgess, Leuluai, Hastings, Partington, Isa, Farrell, Singleton, Powell, Bullock
Clubb, Greenwood, O’Loughlin, Smithies St Helens
Coote; Makinson, Naiqama, Welsby, Grace; Fages, Lomax; Graham, Roby, Walmsley; Bentley, Taia; Knowles
Peyroux, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lees, Amor
Welcome to the Super League Grand Final from KCom Stadium.
Wigan vs Saints, Steve Hampson vs Phil Veivers, Andy Farrell vs Chris Joynt, Poole’s vs Pimbletts. It may be a new location for the Grand Final, but the old rivalries will be very much the same as the two near neighbours reignite their near-pathological dislike for each other on the biggest domestic stage.
Wigan have been in decent nick after receiving a physical and metaphorical slap-down at the hands of Leeds in the Challenge Cup semi a few weeks ago and they will look to this form to rip the title from St Helens’ grasp.
Saints themselves had a canter to final after piling the points on an admittedly shambolic performance from Catalan Dragons in last week’s semi-final. Was that too easy a path, or the perfect way to conserve their energy for when it really matters? We’ll find out in the next couple of hours or so.