GOOD Friday is on us and with it comes what feels like the first unofficial cup final of the campaign.

Sure, there are no pots handed out this early in the season, but woe betide anyone who suggests the game is “worth two points like any other game”.

It is about much more than that; winning the most traditional and historic derby on the rugby league circuit is about putting down a marker, setting a tone, winning local bragging rights for the town and teeing up the team for that tough spring onslaught ahead when form and confidence are key to making progress in the cup.

Oh, and yes, no matter how many chocolate eggs you subsequently stuff down your throat to release pleasure chemicals, it is never enough to lift an Easter from the doldrums that it has been consigned to with a Good Friday defeat.

Fans remember Good Fridays. It is a landmark date on the calendar that other Saints v Wigan clashes can never have, which is unfortunate really given that Wigan have won the last eight Easter clashes while Saints have won seven of the reverse fixtures.

Somehow, victory in those June fixtures ¬- and there have been some thrillers never seems to be able to re-inflate the bubble popped on Good Friday.

Maundy Thursday 2009 was the last time Saints won an Easter fixture against Wigan – so technically Daniel Anderson in 2008 was the last winning Good Friday coach.

And there have been some painful defeats in this recent run – the last one at Knowsley Road and the first one at Langtree spring to mind.

Last year – in defeat – felt like a moral victory and a re-birth, with a regime change, debut for Regan Grace and having to play with 12-men after the harsh sending off of Kyle Amor.

Saints have had coaches in that time who have seemingly tried to take the emotion and pressure off by declaring it is “just two points”, words that have never tripped off the lips of Shaun Wane.

It is Justin Holbrook’s first Easter – and chatting earlier this week he fully buys into what this derby means to the teams and also people either side of the lump.

There have been some absolutely humdingers of Good Friday games over the years, especially when Easter was at the business end of the season pre-Super League.

Who could forget Mark Elia plundering a late try in the clash of 1986 to deny Wigan the Championship, handing Halifax the tile; a favour they never returned the year after.

And the first derby clash of Super League in 1996 when Saints rallied from a 16-4 deficit to swagger to a 41-26 triumph and serve notice to Wigan that their days of dominance were over.

Sandwiched in between those was the 1993 Good Friday game which showed the biggest rugby league derby in all its pomp and brutality.

Saints, going for their first title since 1975, were level on points with the Riversiders going into the home straight. However, Wigan had a far superior for and against which meant if Saints were going to take the Championship they would have to win.

What followed was one of the most compelling 80 minutes of rugby league, played out in front of a creaking Central Park with 29,839 shoehorned into the stadium with locked-out speccies standing four deep on the bridge over the Douglas.

Tries from Alan Hunte and Gary Connolly gave Saints hope with the scores locked at 8-8 at the interval.

The next 40 minutes was an utterly compelling battle for feet and inches in the drizzle and Central Park mud, but neither defence cracked.

The draw ensured that the trophy would go to Wigan, and to compound a miserable day Saints’ enforcer Kevin Ward was left in a crumpled heap on the floor after sustaining a career-ending broken leg in a tackle.

This sport has given our fans some happy days over the years, but it has sure provided some gut-wrenching ones too and that was top of the list.

But if one Good Friday sums up what this derby really means it was the non-event of Easter 1981 when Saints played Oldham in front of barely 2,500 fans at the Watersheddings whilst on the same day in Division Two Wigan lost at home to Swinton.

Wigan; you can’t live with them, but you can’t live without them.