Wigan give St Helens a French lesson to leapfrog rivals at top of Super League

Aaron Bower
·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Lewis Storey/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Bevan French was magnificent once again as Wigan recorded their first derby victory against St Helens in six attempts, leapfrogging their bitter rivals in the process to move to the top of Super League with the play-offs looming.

Clubs will vote on Monday about whether to end the regular season early and extend the play-offs to create more drama in the final weeks of the campaign. If they do approve such a move, the Warriors now appear favourites to claim the League Leader’s Shield and deny St Helens the chance to finish top for a third successive season.

They overcame a half-time deficit to defeat the Saints 18-6 in a game filled with everything you expect from the derby: intensity, physicality and gripping entertainment. Trailing 6-4 at half-time after Lachlan Coote’s try and conversion, Wigan were outstanding in the second half, as was French, who is surely among the favourites to win the Man of Steel award this season. The Australian’s future at Wigan remains uncertain, with a move back to the NRL still possible for 2021. Wigan, on this showing, will be desperate to keep him.

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After Tommy Leuluai’s solo effort put Wigan ahead, French bamboozled the St Helens defence with a stunning run, rounding Coote to put the Warriors further ahead, before Jackson Hastings sealed the victory for the Warriors in the final minutes.

Defeat for the Saints narrows the gap between themselves and third-placed Warrington, who remain firmly in the hunt for a top-two finish after a hard-earned 19-12 victory against Huddersfield. The Giants, who have lost four successive games by eight points or fewer, led shortly after half-time when James Gavet’s try put them 10-8 ahead.

However, a superb long-range try finished by Daryl Clark, who had earlier scored Warrington’s first try, and a fine finish from Anthony Gelling ensured the Wolves improved their win percentage, with a late Gareth Widdop drop goal putting the seal on their victory.

Huddersfield were left to rue a crucial first-half injury to their half-back Lee Gaskell, which may have been pivotal. It certainly looks as though it will be one of Wigan, Warrington or St Helens who will lift the Super League title in Hull at the end of next month, though a proposal to extend the play-offs to five, or even six, teams could open the door to Hull FC and Leeds.