Yates' view: Vivid Challenge Cup memories

The often rocky road to Wembley is littered with moments of sheer joy or despair - and I've witnessed many in the past four decades.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 9:59 am
Updated Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 10:02 am
1996 Challenge Cup success for Saints

But, strange as it may seem, my most vivid memory came after Saints had KO'd Rochdale Hornets 58-20 in a fifth round away tie on February 11, 1996 - the first year of summer rugby.

Jubilant St Helens fans were already celebrating their march into the quarter finals of the competition when the man on the loud speaker announced: ''Here's the result of one other tie: Salford 26 Wigan 16.''

Suddenly, on hearing the news, the cheers turned into a crescendo of noise on the realisation that the Cherry and Whites' eight-year dominance of the competition had come to an end after 43 matches.

It left Saints, under new boss Shaun McRae, overnight cup favourites and they justified this by reaching the final where they defeated Bradford Bulls 40-32 in front of 75,944 fans.

And what an epic it turned out to be! It was later dubbed one of the best-ever Wembley Finals which ebbed and flowed from start to finish and remembered mostly for the unerring accuracy of skipper Bobbie Goulding's kicks into the sun - something that the baffled and bemused the Bulls' defence, especially full back Nathan Graham, simply couldn't handle..

At the same time, the Warriors shock defeat was arguably a massive turning point in Saints' history as they went on to complete a league and cup double - and haven't really looked back since as their trophy cabinet testifies.