THERE is no consolation whatsoever when neutrals label our defeat in the Betfred Challenge Cup semi-final as a advert for our great game.

The fact is for the Saints die-hards we went down to our fiercest rivals Wigan Warriors by 20-18 at Elland Road – and have been ko’d from the cup I wrote in my column last week i thought Wigan probably had the ascendancy going into the game, based on a poor Saints performance against Salford and injuries to key personnel over previous weeks.

This was proved right in the first 40 minutes as Wigan raced into a 14-nil halftime lead, and Saints chances of retaining this iconic trophy looked ominous.

However, like the champion team Saints are, they flew out of the blocks after the interval and were soon on the board with a typical Konrad Hurrell powerhouse try.

This was followed by tries by Jonny Lomax, who deserves copious amounts of respect after announcing himself available to play following a complete rupture of his bicep the previous week, and skipper James Roby.

Add to this the perfect boot of Tommy Makinson and the Saints we’re back 18-14 in front with just 20 minutes to go, and completely bossing the second half.

However, as often seen in elite sport, the game can change in a heartbeat, and this was the case on Saturday.

Completely against the run of play, in a cruel twist of fate it was that man Jonny Lomax who failed to hit the target with his pass, and it was Liam Marshall who was quickest to the loose ball and raced three quarters of the pitch to put Wigan back in front with 10 minutes to go.

Despite Saints again piling on the pressure we were unable to score and Wigan now go on to face the Huddersfield Giants at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 28.

Saints gaffer Kristian Woolf said his team were ‘all over the place’ in that first half, something I have to agree with. I don’t think the uncertainty of Jonny’s injury, then the subsequent changes in position helped with this.

Like the Salford game, I thought the game-management and last tackle options were poor at times, and this was something that stopped us applying pressure on the Warriors in the opening half.

One thing for sure though, there will be a lot of positives taken from the second half performance…and the character and toughness shown to get back in the game. Something they now need to take into this Friday’s home tie against Hull FC.

St Helens Star:

So, all focus is now on aiming to retain the Betfred Super League title for the fourth consecutive time.

Despite going out of the Challenge Cup, the title sponsors still have St Helens clear 10/11 favourites for Grand Final success at Old Trafford in September, followed by Catalans at 10/3 and Wigan 4/1.

As for the more immediate future, I’m predicting a Saints response and bounce back to victory with a 12 points or more victory over Brett Hodgson’s men.

It will certainly challenge our response to a morale-sapping defeat, but with that man James Roby continuing to lead the way I think we’ll still be sitting pretty at the top of the Betfred Super League table come 10pm on Friday…and if he manages the first try in a home win by 12 or more that will be a 33/1 double with Betfred!

And lastly but by no means least, a massive congratulations to the Saints Women’s team who continued their domination, by retaining the Betfred Womens Challenge Cup with a hard fought win over the Leeds Rhinos.