St Helens have won our first Challenge Cup trophy since 2008 with a 26-12 win over Castleford at Wembley on Saturday afternoon!
The Saints dominated the opening five minutes, spending most of it camped in the Castleford half but were unable to make the most of their good field position early on.
Theo Fages did open the scoring in the 10th minute though. A grubber kick from Jonny Lomax bounced off the post, and Fages was the quickest to pounce from close range, the video referee had a second look at it but the try was given. Lachlan Coote added the extras from in front of the sticks, 6-0 Saints led.
Castleford responded with their first real threat of the game in the 16th minute. A break from within their own half ended with Niall Evalds collecting a Peter Mata’utia kick and scoring to the right of the sticks. Gareth O’Brien levelled the scores, 6-6.
Cas extended their lead in the 25h minute. A high kick under the Saints sticks was not dealt with, Jake Trueman jumped highest to score and put the Tigers ahead for the first time. O’Brien added the extras from in front of the sticks, 12-6.
Those were the final points of the first half as Saints trailed 12-6 at the break at Wembley and knew they would need to be more clinical when in great field position for the second half if they were to turn the deficit around.
Saints thought they had scored two minutes into the second half as James Roby went over. A high kick was allowed to bounce, was patted back by Regan Grace and Roby was there to touch down. After a long video referee review the try was awarded. Coote added the extra two to once again level the scores at 12-12.
We then retook the lead in the 51st minute. A flowing move from left to right saw Jack Welsby, playing in the halves after Fages went off injured, found Kevin Naiqama. He then found Tommy Makinson who finished well in the right corner. Coote’s conversion from the right touchline went wide, 16-12 Saints led with just under 30 minutes left.
Cas got close to a response almost instantly, but a great tackle from Coote stopped Evalds from grabbing his second try as he made a big break downfield.
Saints had the chance to extend their lead to six points after Mark Percival was blocked off by Peter Mata’utia as he chased a kick, Coote’s penalty attempt was good, 18-12 Saints led.
Saints were awarded another penalty in the 70th minute as Castleford once again got caught offside by the referee. Coote converted the penalty to give us a 20-12 lead with 10 minutes left. A third consecutive attempt for two points followed as Makinson won a penalty after being tackled in the air. This time however, Coote’s penalty went wide so the score remained 20-12 to the Saints.
Kyle Amor topped off a wonderful afternoon for the Club as he added a fourth Saints try two minutes before the end – his first try of the season! A strong run from close range saw ‘Marra’ take four Castleford defenders with him and they couldn’t stop him as he went over – to mass Saints celebrations!
Another video referee check saw the try awarded and all but confirmed Saints would be Challenge Cup champions once again.
Coote once again added the extras from in front of the sticks, 16-12 and that is how it ended. St Helens had ended our 13 year wait for a Challenge Cup with a memorable victory at Wembley.
Saints Team: Lachlan Coote, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Joel Thompson, Joe Batchelor, Morgan Knowles.
Interchanges: Matty Lees, Kyle Amor, Agnatius Paasi, Jack Welsby.
Tries: Theo Fages (10), James Roby (42), Tommy Makinson (51), Kyle Amor (78)
Conversions: Lachlan Coote (3 from 4)
Penalties: Lachlan Coote (2 from 3)
Castleford Tigers Team: Niall Evalds, Derrell Olpherts, Peter Mata’utia, Michael Shenton, Jordan Turner, Jake Trueman, Gareth O’Brien, Grant Millington, Paul McShane, George Griffin, Oliver Holmes, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Nathan Massey.
Interchanges: Liam Watts, Adam Milner, Alex Foster, Daniel Smith.
Tries: Niall Evalds (16), Jake Trueman (25)
Conversions: Gareth O’Brien (2 from 2)