Remembering when Saints were Wembley winners over Hull in 2008

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Friday, 12th March 2021, 7:57 am
France Meli scores during the Carnegie Challenge Cup Final win over Hull

All significant events in 2008 but whisper it to Saints' fans that it represents the last occasion they won the Rugby League Challenge Cup at Wembley!

Had anyone told me as I left the Mecca of British sport on that sunny Saturday afternoon in August following a hard fought 28-16 victory over Hull FC, they would still be seeking their next Wembley win today, I would have found it hard to swallow.

Since then they have been Grand Final winners three times (2014, 2019 and 2020) and runners-up to Warrington Wolves in the 2019 cup final.

It seems so long ago that some fans will have only distant memories of what went on that day - but I'll just jog their memories

St Helens, under the leadership of head coach Daniel Anderson, went into the Roses Battle red-hot favourites on the strength of winning the coveted trophy the two previous years, once at Twickenham and once at the newly-reopened Empire Stadium.

Tries by Matt Gidley and Francis Meli put the holders 10-0 ahead at the interval before the Airlie Birds battled their way back via a Kirk Yeaman double, both converted by Danny Tickle, to establish a 12-10 advantage with 15 minutes to go.

But Saints showed their class and composure - hitting back through Meli, with his second try, Jon Wilkin and Leon Pryce for a famous Wembley win despite losing the influential Paul Sculthopre in the early stages with a dislocated shoulder.

Matt Gidley scores at Wembley

Anderson admitted later that he had been nervous for long periods of the match, especially when Hull took the lead.

"I definitely got heart palpitations," he said. "We almost found a way to lose. I thought we squandered ample opportunities in the first half, we had genuine try-scoring plays.

"I had a real bad feeling at the start of the second half, I thought it was going to come back and bite us.

"We are a very good front-running team but I knew the first try would provide momentum for Hull.

Jon Wilkin touches down

"Credit to us. We were honest for 80 minutes and I think that got us through. It was a tough game, I don't think people realise how much the first half took out of us.

''I'm very proud and have been since I came to St Helens.

"I knew I was coming to a fantastically traditional club with some of the world's great players.

"I'll go home with some fantastic memories and have been very privileged to be the coach."

Captain Keroin Cunningham with the Challenge Cup

Teams - Saints: Paul Wellens, Ade Gardner, Matt Gidley, Willie Taulu, Francis Meli, Leon Pryce, Sean Long, Bryan Hargreaves, Keiron Cunningham, James Graham, Chris Flannery, Jon Wilkin, Paul Sculthorpe. Subs: James Roby, Lee Gilmour, Paul Clough, Maurie Fa'asavalu.

Hull FC: Todd Byrne, Matt Sing, Graeme Horne, Kirk Yeaman, Gareth Raynor, Daniel Holdsworth, Tommy Lee, Ewan Dowes, Shaun Brannigan, Peter Cusack, Willie Manu, Danny Tickle, Lee Radford. Subs: Richard Horne, Garreth Carvell, Tom Briscoe, Jamie Thackary.

Referee: Steve Ganson (St Helens).

Attendance: 82,821.