Yates' verdict: Smell of Wembley is in the nostrils for St Helens
Too close for comfort! Saints marched into the last four of the Betfred Challenge Cup at Emerald Headingley last night (Friday) but were given a run for their money by rank outsiders Huddersfield Giants.
The smell of Wembley will now be in their nostrils - but it took a majestic hat-trick from winger Regan Grace to finally put this absorbing quarter final tie to bed - a few days after he had signed a new deal which will keep him at the Totally Wicked Stadium until the conclusion of the 2022 season.
The Giants gave the 9-4 cup favourites and unbeaten Super League leaders as tough a challenge as any other club so far this year and while they were second best for much of the game, they managed to keep Saints at bay by dogged and determined defending and could so easily have landed a sucker punch in the dying embers of the game.
At the same time, credit to head coach Kristian Woolf's boys who had to overcome the shock of losing winger Tommy Makinson with a foot problems after only three minutes and then being forced to withdraw forward Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook late in the first half due to a head knock.
It disrupted their rhythm for a spell, emphasised by the fact that the Tykes went in at half-time leading 12-10 and threatening to upset the apple cart.
But resilient Saints stamped their authority on the final 40 minutes and while they had one or two scary moments, cream eventually rose to the top. It would have been a travesty of justice if they had been shown the exit door after monopolising the second-half exchanges but the players and fans will have breathed a sigh of relief when the final hooter sounded.
Skipper James Roby said post- match that it didn't matter in sudden death rugby whether you win ugly or in a flamboyant manner.
Saints showed a bit of both in what was a hard-fought 23-18 victory and now look forward to seeing who they meet in the semi-final..