RUGBY league can be a cruel mistress – and nothing underlined that more than the deciding passage of play in Saturday’s Challenge Cup semi-final.

A game of two halves, in which Saints had clawed their way back from a 14-point deficit to lead 18-14, was decided by a Liam Marshall interception.

Jonny Lomax, playing with a ruptured bicep and arm heavily strapped up, was looking to find the killer pass that would have given Saints a two-score lead.

But instead the experienced half back could do nothing but watch the ball as it hit the deck, just short of Jack Welsby, before bouncing kindly for wing Marshall to pick up and race 80 metres.

There was no way back after that.

It was an absolute heartbreaker for Lomax who had defied the pain barrier to make a significant contribution in pulling the game out of the fire in the second half.

St Helens Star:

He was surprise inclusion, but since Good Friday Saints have lost scrum half Lewis Dodd and two full back options in Will Hopoate and Jon Bennison leaving Kristian Woolf to concoct a new-look spine on the hoof with Lomax swapping with Jack Welsby in defending at 1 but attacking at 6 – partnering rookie centre Ben Davies in the halves.

Understandably, it was clunky and disjointed at times and that usual slickness was not there when they shifted the ball, but the bigger weakness coming in the way they ended their sets.

Dying with the ball, not thinking what sort of kick would turn the screw or throwing a panicky pass as if each set had to yield a catch up score.

Shakiness with the ball was replicated in the much-vaunted defensive line that was breached after two minutes. It was a sickener given Saints’ pack had walloped each Wigan ball carrier back on their heels, meaning the Warriors first set ended on the back foot.

Alas Harry Smith’s punt downfield was dropped cold by young wing Josh Simm and scenting blood the Warriors exploited Konrad Hurrell’s dart out of the line to score.

St Helens Star:

A Cade Cust try, when Saints had Joe Batchelor in the sin-bin, was another self-inflicted wound, but when second rower Liam Farrell stepped into the space left by uncharacteristically loose defensive formation we were looking at a mullering on the scale of the 2005 and 2018 semi-finals.

In fact, it was looking like it was going to be the biggest massacre of the Saints at Elland Road since Don Revie’s side strung together the famous 39-consecutive passes in thrashing Southampton 7-0 in 1972.

Giving any side, let alone your bitterest foe, a 14 start is bad enough – but doing so in a semi-final was always going to present an uphill challenge.

St Helens Star:

Remarkably, with James Roby’s steady hand on the tiller and more involvement from Lomax, Saints clawed it back – assisted by the carries of Agnatius Paasi and enthusiasm of Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook.

Hurrell’s powerhouse surge to the corner brought relief as much as hope, but when Lomax collected his own kick off a Tommy Makinson tap back the fat was in the fire.

St Helens Star:

As the temperature in the Elland Road went up a notch Roby rolled back the years with a vintage dart and drive to plant the ball down.

Makinson’s third goal made it 18-14 and the momentum was with the cup holders.

St Helens Star:

Alas, in a repeat of the sort of movie Saints fans endured in the late 80s and early 90s, Wigan turned a valiant comeback into a video nasty with cries of “Wi-gan, Wi-gan, Wi-gan” as the soundtrack.

All that was missing was the Norweb inflatables to replace the Saints bubble that had been well and truly popped.

St Helens Star:

Wigan Warriors: Field; Marshall, Bibby, Thornley, French; Cust, Smith; Singleton, O’Neill, Byrne, Farrell, Bateman, Smithies. Subs: Mago, Ellis, Havard, Shorrocks.

Tries: Liam Marshall (3, 68), Cade Cust (19), Liam Farrell (30).

Goals: Harry Smith (1).

Saints: Welsby; Makinson, Hurrell, Percival, Simm; Davies, Lomax; Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Batchelor, Mata’utia, Knowles. Subs: Lussick, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Paasi, Sironen.

Tries: Konrad Hurrell (47), Jonny Lomax (50), James Roby (57).

Goals: Tommy Makinson (3).

Sin Bin: Joe Batchelor (17).