Challenge Cup: St Helens 4 Warrington 18
PUBLISHED: 17:35 24 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:35 24 August 2019
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Warrington Wolves upset the apple cart with a stunning, and thoroughly deserved victory over red-hot favourites St Helens at a baking Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
The Saints have guaranteed top spot on the league ladder, but they were comprehensively outplayed by their closest challengers.
A tight opening 25 minutes saw Saints go close twice, first a kick that had one roll too many for the chaser to ground inside the end-line, then a knock-on by Zeb Taia ruled out a try down the left side.
n 26 minutes, however, the Wolves did manage to get over the line as Joe Philbin, who had come on as a concussion assessment replacement, bounced between two tacklers and stretched to ground the ball on the whitewash and Stefan Rachford added the extras.
And it got worse for the Super League leaders when Lachlan Coote surprisingly fumbled a kick and, given possession inside St Helens' 10-metre-line, the Wolves crossed through Ben Murdoch-Masila, a score improved by Ratchford.
There was one final first-half scoring opportunity for St Helens, but a superb last-ditch tackle from Daryl Clark stopped the move inches from the line.
There was a dramatic start to the second half as both teams had tries ruled out by the video referee inside four minutes.
First to be denied was Warrington's Tom Lineham, knock-on the ruling. Play immediately moved to the other end and Tommy Makinson, under extreme pressure from Bryson Goodwin lost the ball as he dived over the line.
Saints were given another chance in the 54th minute when superb defence kept the Wolves inside their own 20 and the clearing kick went out on the full, giving St Henlens the ball 15 metres out.
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Three tackles later Theo Fages spotted a gap and stretched over the line, though, shockingly Coote missed a relatively simple conversion.
St Helens were strangely out of sorts. They kept making mistakes and ruining good positions for themselves or giving Warrington scoring opportunities.
With eight minutes remaining another error gifted the Wolves the ball in a good attacking area and hooker Daryl Clark sniped through a gap at dummy half to essentially settle the game.
With Ratchford wracked by cramp, Dec Patton took on the kicking duties and he duly converted to make it a three-score game.
Clark, who had just been announced as the man of the match proved the voters right with a tackle on Regan Grace that not only jarred the ball loose but bundled the winger over the advertising hoarding.
It would almost certainly have been too little to late for Saints, but it rather summed up their afternoon.
St Helens: Lachlan Coote, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Luke Thompson, Zeb Taia, Dominique Peyroux, Morgan Knowles. Interchange: Louis McCarthy Scarsbrook, Kyle Amor, Jack Ashworth, Joseph Paulo.
Try: Fages (56). Goals: Coote 0/1.
Warrington: Stefan Ratchford, Tom Lineham, Bryson Goodwin, Toby King, Josh Charnley, Ben Currie, Declan Patton, Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Jack Hughes, Jason Clark. Interchange: Sitaleki Akauola, Joe Philbin, Matt Davis, Jake Mamo.
Tries: Philbin (26), Murdoch-Masila (32), D. Clark (74). Goals: Ratchford 2/2, Patton 1/1.