If you listened to the pundits, the bookies and the neutral fans, then there was only one side who would be lifting the Challenge Cup at the end of eighty Wembley minutes, runaway league leaders St Helens. But this is the Cup, and it’s a funny old thing, and anything could happen.
Warrington are the side with the recent Challenge Cup pedigree having figured in five finals, winning three since, since Saints were last represented in this auspicious event. The top two sides in Super League met in the first final of the year, with many believing that they will also meet at Old Trafford in October.
This was the fourth meeting between these two sides in 2019 with Saints having emerged victorious on every occasion, the most recent being a 30-12 win just over a fortnight ago. Both sides ran onto the sun baked field with the neutrals hoping that it would be more competitive than it appeared on paper.
While Warrington had to fight for every metre in the early exchanges, they came easy for St Helens. Saints had a Morgan Knowles try ruled out very early without referee Hicks consulting the video referee who would have had a difficult decision to make.
There was no faulting the Wolves defence as they were barraged by the Saints attack. Robust tackling frustrated the Saints attack in the sweltering heat.
On twenty-three the video referee agreed with the on-field official to deny Tommy Makinson a try for Saints. Two minutes later Joe Philbin scored the first try of the game after splitting the Saints defence with a ten metre run before rolling over the line and getting the ball on the ground. Stefan Ratchford added the conversion for a 6-0 lead. Saints utter dominance had come to nothing as they found themselves behind.
A Lachlan Coote error under the bomb on thirty-two. Two tries in Jack Hughes provided Murdoch-Masila with the pass for the big man to push his way to the line and ground. Ratchford was accurate with the boot for a 12-0 lead. The Wolves were starting to believe.
Some incredible Wolves defence kept Saints at bay early on before a couple of uncharacteristic errors from the red vee allowed the Wolves over for two tries. In a ferocious first half the Wolves took their opportunities and Saints didn’t, the underdogs well worth their half time lead.
Morgan Knowles failed to take a pass on his own forty two minutes after the restart. Bryson Goodwin went close and on the next play the ball Tom Lineham went from acting half back and grounded but after passing the decision to the video referee as ‘No TRY’ it was ruled our for a contact with the ball player.
On forty-five Tommy Makinson flew over in the corner off a looping pass but dropped the ball in the act of scoring under the tackle.
The game was opening up as the heat took its toll. On fifty Regan Grace knocked-on a Wolves kick through in his own goal area, conceeding a goal line drop out but Saints defended their line and went on the attack.
Saints stepped up the aggressiveness of the tackling in an attempt to force the error. In fifty-five a dart from Theo Fages from five metres saw the French half-back reach for the line and ground for Saints first points of the afternoon. Coote was unable to kick a simple looking conversion to leave his side trailing 12-4.
Another Saints error, this one from Coote, in the sixty-ninth minute saw another attack break down. After five tackles and a kick from Warrington it was Fages trun to make a mistake, knocking-on the kick through.
On seventy-one Daryl Clark sealed the Wolves win with a scoot from acting half-back, a dummy and pushing through two tackles to get the ball on the ground. Dec Patton took over the kicking duties and slotted the ball between the uprights for 18-4.
Daryl Clark won the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match as his side lifted the famous old trophy after a stunning victory.
All credit to Warrington and their coach Steve Price who went to Wembley as big underdogs, absorbed the early Saints pressure and then took their opportunities when they arose. Saints had a very bad day at the office with many unforced errors ad a lack of penetration in attack against an excellent Warrington defensive effort. Warrington have put a nightmare couple of months behind them and are now well poised for a tilt at Old Trafford and the double. Saints will now focus on the Old Trafford final and winning Holbrook a trophy in his last game in charge.
Wolves: Ratchford (2G), Lineham, Goodwin, King, Charnley, Currie, Patton (G), Hill, Clark D (T), Cooper, Hughes, Murdoch-Masila (T), Clark J. Subs: Philbin (T), Akauola, Mamo, Davis.
Saints: Coote, Grace, Percival, Naiqama, Makinson, Lomax, Fages (T), Walmsley, Roby, Thompson, Peyroux, Taia, Knowles. Subs: Paulo, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Ashworth.
Referee: Rob Hicks.