Memory Lane: Wigan v St. Helens

With the upcoming derby almost upon us we thought we'd take a look back down memory lane, although not too far. Cast your minds back to Good Friday 2003 when Wigan played St. Helens here at the JJB Stadium. Stuart Raper was in charge of the Warriors that day and no-one gave the injury riddled Warriors a chance........

Wigan Warriors 24 St. Helens 22
Friday 18th April '03

Wigan's battle damaged squad was strengthened in the form of Jon Whittle who was part of Wigan' academy set up during 2003. Whittle joined Wigan's other youngsters Mark Roberts, Kevin Brown and David Allen in making their Super League debuts for the club. And what a debut it turned out to be as Wigan held out for a 24-22 victory.

Wigan got off to a shaky start with Paul Sculthorpe kicking a penalty before Darren Albert has skipped past Jon Whittle to score in the corner opening up a six point lead for the Saints.

But on 17 minutes Terry Newton managed to get Wigan back in the game after reaching for the line between Hooper and Ward. Danny Tickle made in six all from the tee.

It was only a minute though before Saints were back in front through Mick Higham after Saints had retained the ball from the kick off. Sculthorpe added the goal and Saints were six in front again.

The match was slipping away from Wigan when a startling Saints move produced a try for Jason Hooper just before the half hour.

Adrian Gardner showed impressive pace to outstrip the first line of cherry and white defence, linked with Smith and Hooper was there to gallop in from 30 metres. Sculthorpe converted and it was 18-6 to St. Helens.

But canny stuff from Tickle created Wigan's second try. His palm on to Brian Carney was returned by the Irishman and Tickle jinked over the line. His follow up kick sailed between the posts.

With Wigan back in the match the last thing they needed was another foul-up by Whittle but the teenager couldn't grasp a Sculthorpe sky-scraper and Albert was there like a vulture for an easy touchdown.

With Wigan 22-12 down at half time, coach Stuart Raper bit the bullet and hauled Whittle off for the second period. Substitute Kevin Brown repaid his faith with a committed performance, one of many in the second 40 from Wigan's academy of teenagers.

sean_briscoe_200x305.jpgWigan prevented St. Helens from scoring a point in the second period and managed a couple of tries to boot. The first from Shaun Briscoe a some neat play. Tickle added the extras and the Wigan players and fans could sense a shock was on the cards.

Danny Tickle also added a penalty five minutes later to bring Wigan back to 22-20, and the home side were galvanised.

Then Danny Sculthorpe and Adrian Lam broke clear as they looked to hit back further, and they managed to breach the Saints line on 58 minutes as Newton crossed again from dummy half after Lam was held short.

Saints came close to retaking the lead on a couple of occasions but for great defensive tackles from Shaun Briscoe, who was my man of the match, and some great handling from Brian Carney.

Wigan Line Up: Briscoe, Carney, Aspinwall, Johnson, Whittle, O'Loughlin, Lam, O'Connor, Newton, C. Smith, Bibey, Tickle, M. Smith.
Subs: Allen, Brown, Roberts, Sculthorpe

Saints: Wellens, Albert, Gleeson, Smith, Gardner, Sculthorpe, Long, Britt, Higham, Ward, Joynt, Stankevitch, Hooper.
Subs: Edmondson, Jones, Jonkers, Stewart.

HT: 12-22
Referee: Karl Kirkpatrick (Warrington)
Attendance: 15,607
Weather: Warm and sunny but breezy.
Star Man: Shaun Briscoe

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