St. Helens moved to the last eight of this year’s Challenge Cup with a win over Huddersfield Giants. Here’s what happened.
Super League leaders St Helens overcame a determined Huddersfield Giants side to move onto the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
Saints will play Wakefield Trinity in the last eight. The first half was a tight affair, with tries from Regan Grace and Theo Fages equalled by Joe Wardle and Aaron Murphy scores for the Giants.
Justin Holbrook’s side will surely be looking to make up for lost time in the Challenge Cup – they last reached Wembley in2008, the last of three successive triumphs.
And when Lechlan Coote crossed early in the second half to move the 12-time winners clear, many assumed they would stroll to victory front then on in, but Wardle hit straight back with another for the hosts.
The game was ultimately decided when Fages’ high kick was tipped backwards by the fingertips of the impressive Tommy Makinson and Kevin Naiqama touched down.
The scramble of Saints and Huddersfield bodies on the whitewash forced the TMO to have an excruciatingly long viewing to make sure no visiting player knocked on in the build-up before the Fijian eventually got his hand on the ball.
St. Helens then showed the levels of composure that have taken them to the top of the league table by seeing out the final 20 minutes in a now routine professional manner.
For Simon Woolford’s improving Giants, this was a vast improvement on the performance that saw them comfortably beaten when these sides met at John Smith’s Stadium in March.
Huddersfield’s focus now turns back to their league campaign. The Yorkshire club sit ninth in the Super League table, just four points clear of bottom club London Broncos. Next up, it’s another home tie and this one could prove pivotal – they host Hull Kingston Rovers on Friday night.
St. Helens didn’t panic
This encounter was far closer than that when the two sides met, yet Saints’ feathers seemed unruffled by a Giants side that threatened for 60 minutes.
Huddersfield were close
After the drama of losing 25-26 to Wakefield in their last home game, Huddersfield would still have been reeling from it. But their hunger and desire to win very nearly caused a major upset. If the Giants had more legs, they could well have been the ones lined up to face Wakefield.
Saints know how to win
With the game still largely in the balance, many teams would have continued to charge forwards and risk being caught on the break. St. Helens, however, were not so naive. They stayed tight defensively to ensure another important victory.
Can they do it?
With every passing round, Saints become heavier and heavier favourites to lift the famous trophy. The same was said last season, however, when Catalans spoiled the party in the semis. Can they go one, even two better this time? I, for one, can’t wait to find out.
Huddersfield Giants 16
Tries: J Wardle (2), Murphy
Goals: Gaskell (2)
Drop Goals: n/a
St. Helens 22
Tries: Grace, Fages, Coote, Naiqama
Goals: Coote (3)
Drop Goals: n/a
Huddersfield Giants: McIntosh, L Senior, Turner, Murphy, I Senior, Gaskell, Frawley, English, O’Brien, Matagi, Joe Wardle, Mellor, Clough.
Interchanges: Leeming, Roberts, Hewitt, Ta’ai.
St Helens: Coote, Makinson, Grace, Naiqama, Costello, Lomax, Fages, Lees, Roby, Walmsley, Peyroux, Taia, Knowles.
Interchanges: Paulo, Amor, Ashworth, Smith.