On this day: Wigan beat Saints to win Premiership

September 8th, 1996

Wigan and St Helens produced a wonderful finale to the 1996 domestic season, the first in the game’s history which had been played throughout the summer months.

Saints had famously broken their neighbours’ stranglehold on the Challenge Cup and league title, by landing both pots in the most sensational style.

But Wigan gained revenge of some sort by being far superior at Old Trafford in the final of the old Premiership competition. They won 44-14 with 35,013 in attendance.

Only the top four entered in 1996, and while Saints brushed aside London 25-14, Wigan got the better of Bradford Bulls by the skin of their teeth in one of the games of the season. Shaun Edwards scored four to help his side win 42-36 in his last game for Wigan at Central Park.

This article originally appeared in Monday’s edition of League Express newspaper. Click here to download the digital version to your computer, phone or tablet

In the final, Gary Connolly, who enjoyed a fabulous game, opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a brilliant dummy-half try from nearly 50 metres, but Andy Farrell was off target with the goal.

It didn’t take long for the champions to hit back and when Paul Newlove took Derek McVey’s pass close to the line there was no stopping him as he crashed over for a try which Bobbie Goulding improved.

But there was no denying Wigan, who were clearly determined to prevent a St Helens clean sweep of trophies, and Shaun Edwards put them back into the lead, scoring for the sixth game in a row.

Winger Danny Ellison was next over, taking Farrell’s basketball pass to score in the corner and when he scored again, this time set up by Edwards, they had a commanding 18-8 lead, although they had outscored Saints by four tries to one.

And Saints threatened to punish Farrell’s profligacy with the boot when Tommy Martyn crashed over from a marauding Newlove’s offload at the start of the second half, but Wigan just stepped it up another gear.

Farrell released Simon Haughton down the left with a beautiful short ball and the big second rower, as was usually the case in those days, crashed over to score, although the new captain missed another goal.

The gamebreaking moment came just after the hour when Farrell and Edwards combined from the scrumbase to send Henry Paul streaking away unopposed to the posts from the halfway line.

A few minutes later Robinson jinked over before Ellison broke free to send over the supporting Craig Murdock.

This article originally appeared in Monday’s edition of League Express newspaper. Click here to download the digital version to your computer, phone or tablet

And in the last five seconds Ellison squirmed over from dummy-half, after Kelvin Skerrett had gone close, to complete his hat-trick and a commanding win for his side.

Farrell won the Harry Sunderland Trophy as man of the match, although Connolly was also outstanding.

League Express picked out Steve Prescott as Saints’ best, but without forwards Chris Joynt and Vila Matautia they never looked like winning. Nevertheless, they played their part in an entertaining and free-flowing game.

Earlier in the day, Salford beat Keighley 19-6 in the Divisional Final.

Coached by Wigan legend Andy Gregory, the Reds had recently clinched promotion to Super League. Scott Naylor with two and Steve Blakeley scored their tries, with the latter kicking three goals and a one-pointer.

Prop Cliff Eccles won the Tom Bergin trophy as man of the match. 
 Phil Cantillon scored the Cougars’ only try, which was goaled by Simon Irving.