Challenge Cup final: Warrington Wolves beat St Helens 18-4
|Coral Challenge Cup Final|
|St Helens (0) 4|
|Warrington Wolves (12) 18|
|Tries: Philbin, Murdoch-Masila, Clark Goals: Ratchford 2, Patton|
Warrington were involved in a Wembley upset for the second year running as they held off St Helens to win the Challenge Cup for the ninth time.
A year on from being stunned by Catalans Dragons, this time Wire were the victors on a blisteringly hot day as they shocked runaway Super League leaders St Helens.
After two controversially disallowed Saints tries, Warrington did the main damage with two tries in seven minutes from Joe Philbin and Ben Murdoch-Masila - both converted by Stefan Ratchford.
Theo Fages pulled a try back for Saints on 57 minutes but Lachlan Coote missed the conversion, leaving Justin Holbrook's side crucially still needing to score twice.
And the fired-up Wolves duly wrapped up a deserved victory on 73 minutes when hooker Daryl Clark muscled his way over to cement his award of the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match.
Declan Patton added the extras to extend the margin of victory against a Saints side who, having looked almost invincible this season, simply ran out of steam on such a sweltering afternoon.
Having almost owned this trophy when Wembley first reopened for business in 2007, this was Saints' first visit in 11 years. And, although they rallied at the start of the second half, it had turned into a visit they will want to forget long before the end.
No luck with key decisions
Saints can point to poor luck with refereeing decisions as a big root cause of their 10th defeat in 22 Challenge Cup finals.
Their first moment of ill fortune came early on when Morgan Knowles appeared to get downward pressure as he pursued Fages' kick just before it crossed the deadball line, but referee Robert Hicks had already opted not to 'go upstairs' to the video referee.
They then had a second try ruled out for Mark Percival on 24 minutes after Zeb Taia was deemed to have spilled the ball in a challenge from Murdoch-Masila.
Two minutes later, Wire went straight up the other end to score through Philbin.
And just seven minutes after Ratchford had converted, he was kicking another goal to improve Murdoch-Masila's try.
Saints finally got a break themselves at the start of the second half, when Wire had one chalked off for obstruction against Tom Lineham.
It looked like they might cash in themselves when star finisher Tommy Makinson had a chance to score with one of his airborne specials in the corner. But Bryson Goodwin came up with a superb tackle, causing Makinson to spill the ball mid-flight, inches from the turf.
When they did finally make it over the line, as Fages picked up Roby's pass before wriggling his way over, Coote missed the conversion.
Saints could count themselves lucky that Makinson's late head-high hit on Clark had not been interpreted differently.
As it was, Clark was still there to complete his side's fourth win in 11 years at the new Wembley - and atone for his three previous runners-up medals, with Castleford in 2014 and Wire (2016 and 2018).
Who needs Blake Austin?
After five straight Super League defeats, sparked by a nightmare run of injuries, Warrington had gone to Wembley as the underdogs. But, crucially, on the day, they sure did not play like second favourites.
Much had been made of the loss of injured Australian star Blake Austin.
St Helens coach Holbrook accused his opposite number Steve Price of "playing mind games" over the state of Austin's fitness.
And there was even a feeling that, despite not being named in Warrington's pre-match 19-man squad, he just might be fit by kick-off.
As it was, Josh Charnley returned after knee surgery and Jack Hughes featured just three weeks after playing on with a ruptured testicle in Perpignan.
But there was no Austin. And so good was Warrington's defence, led as always by the dynamic Daryl Clark, it turned out they did not need him after all.
'It was a cracking game'
St Helens head coach Holbrook told BBC One that not having Knowles' early try given "hurt" his side.
"I don't want it to sound like sour grapes as a coach but that's a try," Holbrook said.
"One of theirs is is a knock on and then you're chasing a game in 30C heat. Big decisions like that can hurt in big games and it's tough to take.
"But full credit to Warrington. It was a cracking game of rugby league.
"We had a few things that could have gone differently. That first 25 minutes of that second half, we threw everything at them."
Warrington boss Price said it took "a special performance" to win.
"They've been the benchmark team all season but we stayed at it and broke them down, I'm just ecstatic for the playing group," he said.
St Helens: Coote; Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace; Lomax, Fages; Walmsley, Roby, Thompson, Taia, Peyroux, Knowles.
Interchanges: Paulo, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Ashworth.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford; Lineham, Goodwin, King, Charnley; Currie, Patton; Hill, D Clark, Cooper, Murdoch-Masila, Hughes, J Clark.
Interchanges: Akauola, Philbin, Davis, Mamo.
Referee: Robert Hicks.