Super League’s top side were up against the Betfred Championships eighth placed side in what was billed, pre kick-off as the most one-sided Challenge Cup semi-final in recent history as St Helens took on Halifax RLFC.
It’s over ten years since St Helens have played in a Challenge Cup final, last winning in 2008, but even longer since Halifax have figured. They were last in a final in the 1987-88 season when they lost to Wigan, having beaten St Helens the season before to lift the trophy for the last time.
Saints rested the majority of their squad last weekend and lost to the London Broncos but they were massive favourites to beat a Halifax side who have won their last two, most notably last weekend with a big win over the Widnes Vikings.
A short kick off gave Halifax the first attack but it was Saints who opened the scoring through the boot of Danny Richardson after their attack was obstructed in three minutes.
As the game wore on, with the margin still at just two points, Halifax grew in confidence.
On eleven ‘Fax trapped Saints in goal and forced a drop out and two minutes later Steve Tyrer kicked a forty metre penalty goal to level the scores.
With twenty-five minutes on the clock it was still all square, Halifax giving a great account of themselves and making it difficult to tell that there was a division and a half between the two sides.
It took until the thirty-fifth minute for Saints to score the opening try when James Roby managed to scramble his way over the line and get the ball on the ground. Richardson added the conversion for an 8-2 lead.
Seven minutes after the restart and Saints opted to run a penalty rather than kick for goal. It paid dividends as Dominique Peyroux reversed his way over the line and managed to get the ball onto the ground for a four pointer. Robinson kicked the conversion for 14-2, Saints easing their way into the Wembley final.
On the hour Jonny Lomax ran the angle at the end of a cross-field passing move to slide over after initially juggling he pass. Richardson was able to add the extras for 20-2 and it was now a mountain to climb for the Yorkshire part-timers.
Theo Fages grounded a James Roby grubber as an exhausted Halifax defence failed to get within five metres of him. Richardson added his fifth conversion of the afternoon for a 26-2 lead.
Saints couldn’t add any further points and a superb following from Halifax cheered their side into the final hooter.
A terrific defensive effort by Halifax sowed the seeds of doubts in the St Helens minds and it took them until well into the second half to take control of the game and pull away from the part-timers and into the Challenge Cup final to take on the Warrington Wolves. Halifax made a great fist of it and the Super League sides elation at making it to their first Wembley final for over ten years will be tempered by a disappointment that their win wasn;t more comprehensive.
Saints: Lomax (T), Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Fages, Richardson (5G), Walmsley, Roby (T), Thompson, Peyroux (T), McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Paulo. Subs: Amor, Lees, Ashworth, Bentley.
Halifax: Grix, Robinson, Tyrer (G), Saltonstall, Sharp, Murrell, Johnston, Tangata, Moore, Kavanagh, Butler, Barber, Fairbank. Subs: Kaye, Morris, Fleming, Larroyer.
Referee: Chris Kendall.