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The bookies fancied St Helens to make progress in the Challenge Cup and join a semi-final line-up of Hull KR, Huddersfield Giants, and the Wigan Warriors, as they welcomed the Warrington Wolves to the Totally Wicked Stadium with an eight-point handicap on the coupon.

With no meeting so far in 2024, the last time that the two sides met was back in September 2023 when the Saints were the victors by 16-8, but the last time that there was a meeting in the Challenge Cup, also a quarter final stage, back in 2020 it was Warrington who secured the win before losing to Salford in the semi-final.

Huddersfield experienced the ‘magic of the cup’ when they beat the Dragons in France last night, the question on everyone’s lips was whether this Sunday afternoon would be Warrington’s turn.

The opening exchanges were end-to-end and whetted the appetite for a close and competitive cup encounter.

Warrington hit the front with nine minutes on the clock as Josh Thewlis took a long miss out pass from Matt Dufty to the right wing to ghost over in the corner. Thewlis was just short with his conversion attempt, the Wolves 4-0 to the good.

Saints were back on level terms on twenty-five when James Batchelor chased down a Jonny Lomax high kick and palmed the ball back into the grasp of Konrad Hurrell to go over from ten metres as the Wolves defence looked on, confused and aghast. Jon Bennison added the conversion from wide and the home side were two points ahead. Saints were now looking the stronger side.

A great break from Bennison on thirty-five should have resulted in a try for Saints but a great tackle from George Williams dislodged the ball and save the four pointer.

An off the ball tackle by Curtis Sironen on Williams gifted Warrington a penalty from thirty metres out with Dufty slotting his kick over the uprights to again level the scores at 6-6 and with eleven seconds remaining Williams slotted over a drop goal to edge his side into a 7-6 half time lead, the game proving to be as close as many pundits suggested.

Just like the first half it was all out attack from both sides at the start of the second half.

On fifty-two Saints were awarded a penalty ten out from the line and Bennison accepted the invitation to put the ball between the uprights to again edge his side into a narrow lead.

Following a St Helens defensive mistake, stepping dead in goal after catching a high kick, a sensational one-handed finish from Matty Ashton down the left wing, with the majority of his body airborne over the touchline, as he stretched to ground by the corner flag. Thewlis was up to the task with the boot and added the touchline conversion for a five-point lead.

On the hour mark the visitors were in again as Connor Wrench caught a Williams cross field kick which the Saints defence had failed to deal with to ground unopposed. Thewlis added the conversion for a 19-8 lead, Warrington with one foot in the semi-finals.

Within a minute Warrington looked to be in again as Ashton chased his own kick, dribbled it forward, and grounded but the video referee agreed with the on field official that Ashton had knocked on in the process of scoring. It was a lifeline that Saints so desperately needed.

With eleven minutes remaining James Harrison steamrollered the Saints defence as he took the pass at first receiver from the play-the-ball and ran over the top of two Saints tacklers to ground. Thewlis added the extras from under the sticks and it was time to ‘write off the Saints’.

Two minutes later Matt Dufty broke the Saints line and went for the line, as he stumbled, he found a pass to the supporting Williams who dove over the line for the fifth Warrington try of the game to put the result beyond any doubt. Thewlis hit the target again for 31-8, a comprehensive win for the primrose and blue.

It was a fantastic first half of rugby league with just a point between the sides at the interval but in the second half Warrington simply wanted it more and streaked away thanks to a scintillating performance to silence the home side and take the win to progress to a semi-final encounter against the Huddersfield Giants, with a Wembley date on their minds. A crushing blow for Paul Wellens men who will now hope to quickly forget about this drubbing and focus on regaining their Super League crown.

St Helens: Welsby, Makinson, Hurrell (T), Blake, Bennison (2G), Lomax, Dodd, Walmsley, Clark, Delaney, Sironen, Batchelor, Knowles.  Subs: Mata’utia, Mbye, Bell, Whitley. 18th Man: Davies.

Warrington Wolves: Dufty, Thewlis (T, 5G), King, Wrench (T), Ashton (T), Williams (T, DG), Hayes, Harrison (T), Walker, Philbin, Nicholson, Fitzgibbon, Crowther. Subs: Bullock, Holroyd, Powell, Wood. 18th Man: Ratchford.

Half-Time: 6-7.

Full-Time: 8-31.

Score Progression: 0-4, 4-4, 6-4, 6-6, 6-7 : HT: 8-7, 8-11, 8-13, 8-17, 8-19, 8-23, 8-25, 8-29, 8-31 :FT.

Lead Exchanges: Warrington – Square -  St Helens – Square -  Warrington – St Helens - Warrington.

Referee: Jack Smith.

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Posted by RLFANS News Hound on Sun 14th Apr 2024 6:19 PM | Views : 8333 | Replies : 0 | BACK TO STORIES