Image Credit: [Sky Sports]
Warrington defeat St. Helens and Wigan blowout Castleford to reach the Super League Grand Final.
St. Helens’ remarkable season fell at the penultimate hurdle as they were defeated 18-13 by Warrington in the first Super League Semi-Final, with Wigan joining the Wolves in the big dance a day later.
The first Semi-Final at Langtree Park began a very tense, tight affair, with both sides exchanging penalty goals early on. Neither side seemed able to muster any significant attacking opportunities in an error-strewn first 40 minutes, with Saints’ Tommy Makinson squandering a 2-on-1 opportunity to pass following a break late in the half.
Danny Richardson slotted a drop-goal right on the half time hooter to leave the score at an unusual 3-2 to St. Helens. However, the capacity crowd were in for a treat during the second half. Conceding a drop-out from the kick off was the last thing Warrinton coach Steve Price would have wanted, especially after it resulted in the game’s first try. A smart grubber from Richardson led to an in-goal scramble for the ball, which was eventually grounded by Luke Douglas under the sticks.
Despite being two scores behind, the Wolves replied immediately, with Jack Hughes running a great line to burst through and finish superbly in the right-hand corner. Despite Tyrone Roberts being unable to convert, the Warrington kept on rolling.
Juggernaut-esque winger Tom Lineham, fresh from a reduced suspension, slid over in the other corner after being set up by Bryson Goodwin. Roberts’ successful conversion took Warrington into the lead, however Richardson’s two successive drop goals put the Saints back into the lead, 13-12.
However, with 7 minutes left, Lineham produced a moment of magic to send Warrington to Old Trafford. Following a scintillating passing move, Lineham beat Makinson and stepped inside Ben Barba to score the clincher that ended St. Helens’ season.
Warrington thoroughly deserved their victory, particularly from their second-half performance, with the return of Tom Lineham proving to be a godsend. Saints on the other hand ended their enthralling year in the worst possible way, farewelling departing skipper Jon Wilkin and Man of Steel Barba a week earlier than most had expected.
The second semi was a far less see-sawing affair. A monumental defensive effort from Wigan saw them defeat a disappointing Castleford 14-0, to join Warrington in a repeat of the 2016 Final. Like the previous night, the first half was one of few chances. After Thomas Leuluai wriggled his way to the line in the 10th minute, both Joe Greenwood and Ben Flower made line breaks to no avail. Castleford scarcely looked like scoring, and the first half was ended by a close-range drop goal from Sam Tomkins.
Castleford started the second half in much better fashion, with Michael Shenton & Paul McShane both coming close to reducing the 7-0 deficit. However, Tomkins stepped up to cement Wigan’s dominance, dummying and stepping through the Tigers’ tiring defence to slide over in the right-hand corner. Despite missing his conversion, he added another two points with a penalty to stretch Wigan’s lead to 13-0 and put one foot in the Grand Final.
Wigan’s gargantuan defensive effort prevented Greg Eden and Peter Mata’utia from mounting a late Tigers comeback. Tomkins capped off a Man of the Match performance with a drop goal to send Wigan through to the Grand Final in his penultimate appearance for the Warriors before joining the Catalans Dragons.