Saints the worthy winners

Saints fans at the Grand Final
Saints fans at the Grand Final

They came in their thousands... more in hope than expectation.

But the hordes of loyal Saints fans who descended on Old Trafford and packed out the world-famous Stretford End for Saturday’s Super League Grand Final could barely believe their eyes as emotions spilled over on the pitch with just two minutes on the clock.

Wigan prop Ben Flower’s shameful punch on a prone Lance Hohaia not only reduced his side to 12 men, it robbed Saints of their only remaining creative lynchpin.

It was a far cry from the good-humoured build-up to Saturday’s 6pm kick-off at the Theatre of Dreams, in perfect weather for rugby.

Saints fans mingled with their Wigan counterparts before the game as Old Trafford was turned into a flag-waving, hooter-blowing extravaganza.

Manchester band James also helped stir up both sections of supporters with a terrific set both before kick-off and at half time.

But it was the Saints fans who benefitted most - with lead singer Tim Booth clambering among them in the Stretford End to the sound of their biggest hit Sit Down.

Then, as the likes of cricket legend Geoff Boycott and rugby league royalty Tom Van Vollenhoven and Billy Boston took their places among the VIP seats, a rousing rendition of Jerusalem was followed by a dash of razzmatazz and pre-match pyrotechnics.

It was an electric atmosphere that brutally spilled over after just two minutes but Saints were left playing catch-up following Joe Burgess’s try on the stroke of half-time.

No wonder then that the nervy Saints fans were so elated - not to mention relieved - when the departing Sia Soliola crossed the whitewash in front of them to level the scores.

And those emotions were doubled when ace winger Tommy Makinson claimed Paul Wellens’ clever kick and wrestled his way over in front of the Stretford End - sparking wild celebrations.

Long after the Wigan fans had headed for the exits, loyal Saints fans remained in their seats to lap up every second of the post-match celebrations as the players paraded the Super League trophy on the Old Trafford pitch.

It was a day to remember.