A place in the play off semi-finals awaited and a win for St Helens would see them travelling to Perpignan next week to take on the Catalans Dragons, while should the Warrington Wolves spring a surprise and get the win then they would be travelling to Wigan next week while last nights winners, Hull KR, would be getting on the plane to France.
St Helens have won all three encounters so far in 2023, by twenty-two points at home in April, and by four and then twelve in the meetings in July and a fortnight ago at the Halliwell-Jones.
Warrington had been given a twelve-point start on the handicap coupon after suffering a monumental fall in form following a stunning start to the season, and all but their most optimistic fans were expecting a Wolves defeat and Saints marching closer to another Grand Final.
A brilliant break from Tommy Makinson on five minutes saw him chip ahead twenty from the line and chase down his kick but it was pushed dead in goal by Warrington. Two minutes later Mark Percival dropped the ball under the tackle of Stefan Ratchford with the line begging.
Next to spurn a chance was Jonny Lomax, again spilling the ball as he dipped a shoulder to go for the line, the game was becoming a litany of errors and dropped ball, a real battle with Warrington not looking like they would just roll over.
On seventeen and electric Jack Welsby break saw him find the supporting Will Hopoate who was then brought down twenty short. Two plays later and Lomax went close, before a Welsby grubber into goal drifted dead.
The deadlock was finally broken on twenty-five when Curtis Sironen finally broke the line and found Lewis Dodd in support to finish the try from five metres out. Mark Percival hit the target with his conversion for a 6-0 lead.
Dodd put a kick out on the full to give Warrington a great opportunity, but the defence held firm.
Dangerous lifting by Warrington on thirty-five gifted Percival a simple penalty opportunity and he was up to the task and extended the lead to eight points.
The rain was coming down as the second half got underway.
Connor Wrench took just two minutes at the start of the second half to score a spectacular solo try with a fifty-metre dash down the right side to avoid a lunging Welsby and score in the corner to half the deficit. Stefan Ratchford drilled his touchline conversion through the uprights, Warrington back in the competition.
A poor tackle from Alex Walmsley on Jordan Crowther saw him yellow carded on forty-four while Crowther was helped off the field for a head impact assessment.
A high tackle gave the Wolves a penalty in front of the sticks on fifty-one, Ratchford slotting the ball over the crossbar to level the scores at 8-8, Warrington taking the game to Saints in the second half.
Saints were back in front on fifty-six with Makinson finding an overlap wide right to sneak past the defence and wrongfoot the cover tackler to dive over. Percival added the conversion from wide and edged Saints back six points clear.
A reckless shoulder contact from Joe Bullock on Matty Lees saw the Wolves man yellow carded as the officials judged it as a secondary contact on sixty. Warrington’s uphill climb had got steeper.
Warrington were back to full strength with ten remaining, a critical ten minutes for both sides with the game still in the balance.
A high tackle from Matty Russell on Bennison resulted in another Percival penalty to extend the lead to eight points with just under seven minutes remaining.
Warrington never looked like threatening the Saints lead in the closing minutes and while it wasn't a vintage Saints performance they did get the job done.
It’s Saints who make progress and book themselves a trip to the south of France to take opn the Catalans Dragons next weekend for a place in the Grand Final. Across the park they were just that little bit better than the Warrington Wolves whose season has fizzled out after such a great start promised success. This was the final home game for a number of Saints players, and they did it in style.
St Helens: Welsby, Makinson (T), Percival (4G), Hopoate, Bennison, Lomax, Dodd (T), Lees, Roby, Mata’utia, Batchelor, Sironen, Knowles. Subs: Walmsley (SB on 44), McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Bell, Mbye. 18th Man: Davies.
Warrington Wolves: Dufty, Russell, Wrench (T), Ratchford (2G), Ashton, Williams, Drinkwater, Harrison, Walker, Kasiano, Currie, Nicholson, Crowther. Subs: Mata’utia, Clark, Philbin, Bullock (SB on 60). 18th Man: Dudson.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 8-0 : HT: 8-4, 8-6, (SB), 8-8, 12-8, 14-8, (SB), 16-8 :FT.
Lead Exchanges: St Helens – Square – St Helens.
Referee: Ben Thaler.