By Rachel Arnett (images by swpix)
Warrington travelled the short distance to St Helens to take on their arch rivals in the first of this year’s semi finals.
The Wire welcomed back halfback pairing Kevin Brown and Tyrone Roberts from injury as well as Tom Lineham from suspension.
Saints made a number of changes welcoming back Percival, Morgan, Lomax and Wilkin with Cosello, Fages, Amor and Bentley the changes from last week’s win at Castleford.
It was Saints who snatched a win on the hooter last time the two played at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
It was a very even first half with not much separating the two sides. The first forty minutes were played at a fast pace with just a drop goal edging the lead for Saints.
A nail biting second half but the Wire did it, they got the win and booked their place in the Grand Final.
Ben Barba, Tommy Makinson, Ryan Morgan, Mark Percival, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, Danny Richardson, Matty Lees, Morgan Knowles, Luke Thompson, Zeb Taia, Dominique Peyroux, Jon Wilkin
Subs: James Roby, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Luke Douglas, Jack Ashworth
Goals: Richardson (3)
Drop Goals: Richardson (3)
Stefan Ratchford, Tom Lineham, Bryson Goodwin, Toby King, Josh Charnley, Kevin Brown, Tyrone Roberts, Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Bodene Thompson, Jack Hughes, Ben Westwood
Subs: Joe Philbin, Ben Murdoch-Masila, George King, Declan Patton
Tries: Hughes, Lineham (2)
Goals: Roberts (3)
Wire got the game underway off the boot of Ratchford. And there was an early knock-on, the ball ricocheting off Lomax, to give the visitors the attack from half way. Goodwin and B.Thompson were both wrapped up well just short.
Percival lost possession in the tackle on three minutes which handed the Wire the scrum from 30 metres out but a grubber kick from Brown was taken by Saints to take back possession, L.Thompson taking them forward down the middle.
On eight minutes the Saints were building some pressure keeping the ball alive but the Wire defence down Saints’ right edge forced a knock-on from Percival and play soon switched ends.
As the first 10 minutes came to a close the Wire opted to go for goal in front of the sticks after Saints were penalised in the tackle. Roberts landed the two to take the lead. 0-2
The Wire were pulled up for interference at the play the ball five minutes later and the home side chose to equalise with a penalty goal, Richardson levelling things at 2-2.
A long, high kick to the corner from Richardson was challenged by both sides but Morgan was penalised for tackling in the air to hand the advantage over to the Wire. And shortly after the Wire got another chance to edge closer this time from the scrum after Grace knocked on a Roberts’ kick.
A grubber kick from Brown into the in-goal was patted out of play by Morgan, a try saver, and Saints had to drop out from under the sticks.
A break by L.Thompson looked to have set things up for Saints but a Richardson high kick was patted back and Ratchford was the first to react, kick forward with the chase. The Saints’ defence however, rallied and managed to halt the Wire attack with 15 minutes to the break.
With just over 10 minutes to half time Saints gathered some momentum after a break from Makinson, brought down by Ratchford. Play swung to the left and a Saints’ chip to the line was knocked on by a Wire hand to give the home side the scrum from 10 metres out to test the Wire defensive line; which held strong holding up L.Thompson on his way to the line on the last.
The clock ticking down and Murdoch-Masila got to within inches of the line, tackled just short before Ratchford picked up the loose ball from the pass to attempt a drop goal which unfortunately went out off the post. Taking that idea, Richardson’s attempt at the opposite end however went over, 3-2.
A 40:20 from Roberts gave the Wire a chance just before the break, but time was against them and a pressured pass was lost.
A mistake from the kick-off for the Wire and Saints took the first attack from a drop-out. A Richardson kick to the in-goal bounced everywhere but eventually it was Douglas who got a hand to the ball to ground it. After a look by the video referee the try was awarded. Richardson added the extras from in front. 9-2
Minutes later and the Wire responded with a try of their own, Hughes picking up pace with an angled run to the corner just getting the ball down before he was tackled into touch. The video referee agreed with the on-field decision to award the try. Roberts lined up the touchline conversion but it drifted wide. 9-6
A high shot by Hughes on 50 minutes handed Saints another chance at a penalty goal which Richardson added to make it 11-6
The Saints’ defence stepped up in the next set, tackling Ratchford into touch after the fullback had taken a Richardson kick cleanly. The scrum from 10 metres out with half an hour left to play saw Saints pepper the line, Lomax held up short and a grubber kick forcing a drop-out from the Wire and another set to defend which was done to great results.
A chip through from Brown had a teasing bounce on it but it was Lomax who managed to take it, tackled in the in-goal to result in a drop-out with 23 left on the clock. And less than a minute later Lineham took the ball down the left edge to run to the line to touch down. The video referee said yes and there was just a point in it with the kick to come. Roberts slotted over the goal from the touchline to edge in front. 11-12
A run from Barba with Lomax on his outside looked a certain try for Saints but the pass couldn’t be taken and possession was turned over.
Richardson had the chance to edge the lead back with a penalty goal attempt from the touchline with 13 to go, but he sent it wide. He was on target with his drop goal attempt though seconds later to make it 12 apiece.
The Wire kicked out on the full from the restart and Saints opted to play with a tap on half way. Richardson was in space once again to kick over the drop goal, a low one off the crossbar to pick up the one point. 13-12
On 74 minutes the Wire end erupted as Lineham skipped away from the tackle to score down the left. Roberts struck the ball well to add the goal too. 13-18