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First Utility Super League: St Helens hold on to beat Wigan Warriors
St Helens moved three points clear at the First Utility Super League summit with a thrilling 16-12 derby victory at neighbours Wigan.
Defeat would have seen Saints overhauled by their fiercest rivals but they held on in a breathless finish at the DW Stadium.
Winger Tom Makinson, Super League's leading tryscorer, touched down twice and evergreen skipper Paul Wellens scored his sixth try in his last five matches as Saints overcame the loss of influential scrum-half Luke Walsh to grind out a 16-8 victory in front of a 20,224 crowd at the DW Stadium.
Walsh went off after 21 minutes with a back strain but St Helens proved they are far from a one-man team as condemned the below-strength reigning champions to a second consecutive defeat and claim the spoils from a 233rd league derby packed with crunching tackles.
With both sides scoring three tries, it came down in the end to the goalkicking, with Saints' third-choice marksman Mark Percival succeeding with two of his three attempts while Wigan's Matty Smith failed with all his three.
Wigan, who gave a debut to teenage half-back Jamie Doran in the absence of seven first-choice players through injury and suspension, began in lively fashion, with full-back Matty Bowen producing a couple of threatening runs from deep which had the visitors back-pedalling.
They took the lead on eight minutes when left winger Joe Burgess won the race to Sam Powell's perfectly-weighted kick to the corner to claim his 16th try of the season.
Smith was unable to convert and Saints drew level midway through the first half when second rower Mark Flanagan came up with a superb one-handed pass out of a two-man tackle to get Makinson over for his 16th Super League try of the campaign to pull clear of the pack.
With regular marksman Walsh limping from the field, Makinson attempted to convert his own try but was off target to leave the scores tied.
Jon Wilkin moved into the halves following Lomax's exit and Saints continued to give as good as they received for the rest of the score-less first half.
Wigan's best chance came when Burgess as bundled into touch just short of the corner while Saints spurned the opportunity to kick a penalty, running the ball instead from in front of the posts only to fail to see out their next set.
With Lance Hohaia coming more into the game in the absence of Walsh, Saints gradually got on top and they went in front four minutes into the second half when Burgess failed to claim Wilkin's high kick and Wellens was on hand to gather the loose ball and go past Dan Sarginson to touch down.
Mark Percival was this time wide with the conversion but Saints were good value for their 8-4 lead.
Wigan almost conceded again when the previously immaculate Bowen made a hash of collecting Hohaia's grubber kick near his own line but they survived and struck against the run of play to draw level.
Bowen was the creator with a cut-out pass which gave winger Josh Charnley the space to cross for his side's second try.
It was too far out for Smith to convert and Saints edged back in front on 63 minutes when Percival was successful with a penalty awarded for a high tackle.
The pivotal moment came two minutes later when an offload in midfield from Samoan heavyweight Mose Masoe created space on Wigan's left and Makinson took Jordan Turner's pass to go past Sarginson and Bowen for his second try.
Percival's touchline conversion put two scores between the teams and that proved crucial when Charnley went over for his second try three minutes from the end.
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First Utility Super League Table
|4||Salford Red Devils||7||7|
|11||Hull K R||6||4|
|First Utility Super League|
|Thursday 26th March|
|20:00||Salford Red Devils vs Widnes Vikings|
|Friday 27th March|
|20:00||Castleford Tigers vs Hull FC|
|20:00||Wigan Warriors vs Wakefield Wildcats|
|20:00||Hull K R vs St Helens|
|20:00||Warrington Wolves vs Huddersfield Giants|
|Saturday 28th March|
|17:00||Catalans Dragons vs Leeds Rhinos|
|Thursday 2nd April|
|20:00||Hull vs Hull K R|
|20:00||Wakefield vs Catalans Dragons|
|20:00||Widnes vs Warrington|
|Friday 3rd April|
|12:45||Castleford vs Leeds|
|First Utility Super League|
|Sunday 22nd March|
|Widnes Vikings 20 - 16 Hull K R|
|Wakefield Wildcats 14 - 44 Huddersfield Giants|
|Friday 20th March|
|Leeds Rhinos 26 - 14 Wigan Warriors|
|Castleford Tigers 30 - 16 Salford Red Devils|
|Hull FC 33 - 22 Catalans Dragons|
|Thursday 19th March|
|St Helens 32 - 24 Warrington Wolves|
|Sunday 15th March|
|Hull K R 50 - 20 Catalans Dragons|
|Salford Red Devils 24 - 18 Wakefield Wildcats|
|Friday 13th March|
|Widnes Vikings 20 - 30 St Helens|
|Wigan Warriors 13 - 12 Hull FC|
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