St Helens finally claimed the #Super League title they have been waiting for after losing their last five Grand Final appearances, by beating local rivals Wigan Warriors 14-6 in a fierce battle at Old Trafford on Saturday. A crowd of over 70000 including celebrities from the sporting world such as Geoffrey Boycott, Michael Carrick and Owen Farrell, witnessed the lowest scoring Grand Final this century, but none will have been complaining after an action packed match. It was the Saints' first title win since 2006 and represented a rarity in modern times for the Shield winners to also win the final.
The likely factor in tipping the match their way was the second minute dismissal of Wigan's Welsh international Ben Flower for repeatedly punching Saints' Lance Hohaia. Consequently, last year's victors, Wigan began to visibly fade towards the final whistle through the extra effort they had put in to stay in the game being a man down for most of the match. Besides Flower not being available for the rest of the match, Saints were also unable to utilise Hohaia for the rest of the game as a result. Perversely, that first ever Grand Final sending off seemed to galvanise the twelve men Warriors for the remainder of the first period as they led 6-2 at half time thanks to a Matty Smith penalty that had put them ahead after 17 minutes and a try by 19 year old sensation Joe Burgess in the final seconds of the half. In reply, Mark Percival had levelled the score at 2-2 with a penalty for the Saints.
Wigan initially looked to pick up where they had left off after the break, but St Helens gradually began to take control and were level when Sia Soliola bulldozed over the line for a try on 53 minutes from a James Roby pass, a poignant moment in the try scorer's final Super League match. Percival's conversion put them ahead 8-6 and it seemed that the game was turning their way.
Then a key point in the half occurred that offered Wigan the chance of a penalty to equalise the score. They opted for the two point kick instead of going for the try but Smith pulled his effort wide from a difficult angle. It seemed to be a crucial miss at the time and so it proved as a clever switch kick from Paul Wellens was plucked out of the air by Tommy Makinson, who outjumped Warrior's full-back Matty Bowen and touched down for the try with only 12 minutes left to play. It was Makinson's 27th try in the league in what has been a productive season for him. Percival again converted and the lead looked unassailable at 14-6.
Wigan continued to try to get back into the game but could not find a way to add to their points tally, allowing Saints to control the final minutes and count the clock down to the final whistle. A major figure throughout the match was Saints' hooker Roby, who was rewarded with the prestigious Harry Sunderland Trophy awarded to the man of the match.
For skipper, Wellens it was a heart warming moment in his record equalling tenth Grand Final appearance after all those final losses and also the best send off for their head coach Nathan Brown, as he returns to his native Australia after spells with both Huddersfield Giant and Saints while in England.