This was the night. The culmination of a year’s rugby league encapsulated in eighty minutes as the nailed-on favourites, almost since anyone can remember in 2019, took on the suprrise package, the Salford Red Devils at the theatre of dreams.
Everyone except the Saints fans were ‘Salford for a day’ as the fans from just down the road and all of the neutrals at this grandest of occasions, opened their vocal chords in support of the underdogs.
Salford had earned their Grand Final berth as justifiably as the Saints with defeats of Castleford and Wigan on the road to their first ever Grand Final appearance and they were there to enjoy themselves but also to spring one of the biggest surprises in Super League history and become the fifth name on the famous trophy.
After receiving the kick off, Lee Mossop coughed up the ball early in their set allowing the Saints the first chance of the game but the Red Devils defence held strong.
Early pressure was all from Saints but as the minutes passed Salford started to gain in confidence and we able to start asking a few questions of their own.
Morgan Knowles opened the scoring on fifteen minutes taking a short pass fro Alex Walmsley to pick a gap in the Salford defence and dive over by the left upright. Lachlan Coote added the conversion for a 6-0 lead to disappoint the Red Devils fans and neutrals.
Relentless Saints pressure finally paid out on twenty-four after Zeb Taia took the pass after James Roby collected the ball from the back of the scrum, the second rower crossing from ten metres to get the ball on the ground. Coote was again accurate with the boot, Salford already looking second best on the night.
Salford had a try ruled out on twenty-seven when Tui Lolohea jinked his way to the line, rather cruelly denied for an obstruction. But on thirty-one the Red Devils got their breakthough, scoring on the last tackle, when Jake Bibby took a difficult pass, threw a dummy and slid over the line. Krisnan Inu converted a difficult chance to reduce the arrears to six points.
It had been a terrific first half with little to choose between the two sides. Saints took the game to Salford in the opening twenty-five minutes but roles were reversed for the remaining fifteen.
Saints extended their lead on forty-nine after a delicious Mark Percival grubber saw the centre chase the ball and win the foot race with Kyle Amor to ground under the cross bar. Coote added the conversion for 18-6.
A high tackle from Gil Dudson on sixty gifted Saints a penalty goal from the boot of Coote to extend the lead to three scores, Saints had one hand on the trophy.
A Salford 40-20 from the boot of Joey Lussick should have lifted Salford but on the second tackle Dudson was penalised for a lost ball when it was evident he was being interfered with by the Saints defence. The fifty-fifty decisions were all going in favour of Saints.
A Coote penalty on seventy minutes made it 22-6, Saints taking their opportunities to further twist the knife. A Tommy Makinson forty metre drop goal on seventy-eight was the icing on the cake to seal a 23-6 win.
Saints won their sixth Super League Grand Final at the end of a 2019 season which they have dominated from the first kick. Few can argue that they are worthy champions, but many will be disappointed that the Red Devils couldn’t perform the ultimate underdogs turnaround and lift the trophy. It was an excellent defensive effort to frustrate the Red Devils, but some would argue with more than a little assistance from referee Kendall.
Luke Thompson was named as winner of the Harry Sunderland Trophy after a great game and St Helens were worthy Super League Champions 2019.
Saints: Coote (4G), Makinson (DG), Naiqama, Percival (T), Grace, Fages, Lomax, Walmsley, Roby, Thompson, Taia (T), Peyroux, Knowles (T). Subs: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Ashworth, Smith.
Red Devils: Evalds, Sio, Welham, Bibby (T), Inu (G), Lolohea, Hastings, Mossop, Tomkins, Dudson, Jones, Griffin, McCarthy. Subs: Lussick, Walker, Flanagan, Burke.
Referee: Chris Kendall.