Warrington Wolves had been written off in most quarters in the build up to the final, arriving at Wembley on the back of a five-match losing streak and without key playmaker Blake Austin, who was out with ankle ligament damage. Surely this was to be St Helens’ day? The answer couldn’t have been any further from the truth.
Steve Price, Warrington manager, had joked in the build up to the final that a Warrington win would eclipse that of Sheffield Eagles’ 1998 famous victory over Wigan – and after an energy sapping 80 minutes, he was grinning from ear to ear after being drenched with a bucket of ice by his players.
Warrington opened the scoring in the 25th minute, with Joe Philbin galloping over the line after some clever passing from Daryl Clark. The scoring came after some controversary involving referee Robert Hicks – who awarded a 20-metre restart to Wolves after Saints back-rower Morgan Knowles had successfully grounded a kick. The incident was not referred to the video referee and the fury over the decision only intensified when TV replays on the large Wembley screen confirmed that it was indeed a legitimate try.
Stefan Ratchford’s kicking proved problematic for St Helen’s all day, and Wolves were soon 12-0 up after a try from Ben Murdoch-Masila and a conversion from Ratchford, with Wolves leading 12-0 at the break.
If one move was to sum up Wolves’ never say die spirit, it was Bryson Godwin’s last-ditch tackle on Tommy Makinson, stopping a certain try and illustrating Warrington’s effective scrambling defending. So good was the tackle, it was celebrated like Godwin had himself scored a try!
Warrington never looked like relinquishing their grip on the game, even when a spell of sustained pressure saw St Helens score a try in the 55th minute, with Theo Fages weaving his way through the backline. Warrington broke back and all but confirmed victory when man of the match Daryl Clark bundled over his try nine minutes from the end of time.
The match ended 18-4 and Warrington ran out fully deserving winners after doing everything right on the day. It was the perfect end to a brilliant display and tactical nous from Steve Price and the perfect tonic to the final defat 12 months prior.
Congratulations to Warrington Wolves!
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