SAINTS may have drawn first blood in their annual battle with neighbours Wigan Warriors – but coach Paul Wellens accepts that the war is far from over and expects it to go on for many more years.

The sides served up a compelling, absorbing tussle at a raucous Totally Wicked Stadium on Good Friday – in the first of three Super League meetings between the sides this year.

The sides will meet again this year at Magic in Leeds and at the DW Stadium in the regular rounds – and in all likelihood the knock out stages – so it is a rivalry that will continue.

Two late Saints tries snatched the spoils of victory, but it had been an almighty fight, with both sides’ defences incredibly tough to break down.

Wigan, who had prop Tyler Dupree sin-binned in the first half for leading with the elbow, then had prop Liam Byrne red-carded 17 minutes from time.

St Helens Star:

And Saints eventually wore down the Warriors, with Alex Walmsley’s carries to the fore backed up by some clinical execution at the end.

The win means that Saints leap-frog the champions at the Super League summit and end their unbeaten run that goes back to last summer.

But coach Paul Wellens knows that this is just the opening shot in this year’s campaign.

Wellens said: My overriding sense is that I think this is going to be a Ding-Dong battle for number of years to come.

“The game is suggested that because it's on a knife edge for long periods and what I've learned really since becoming their coach is that you can't get too caught up on results.

“You judge teams and players on performance because we could have quite easily not got the results today, but that doesn't mean the players haven't outlaid the same amount of effort.

“I'm sure Matt Peet and the Wigan club will be upset because they lost the game in the same way we last year in the Good Friday battle, but for sure they'll come back.”

Saints are now top of the pile and have overcome a tough Challenge Cup opening round – and in a much better position than four weeks ago when some prophets of doom speculated whether Saints could possibly lose five in a row after their defeat by Salford and with a tough run of games.

Wellens said: “It’s pleasing because we lost again against Salford a few weeks ago, which was a disappointing result for us.

“And then you looked to two games against Leeds and then Wigan on Good Friday it can be a pretty daunting proposition when you've come off the back of a disappointing defeat.

“But I love the way this playing group have attacked that and advanced to the next round of the Challenge Cup and two important wins in Super League and obviously the challenge is another tough one next week for us at Catalans.

“But the way this team has responded from that disappointment is really pleasing and we sit where we sit on merit.”