GRAND FINAL: Saints 23 Salford 6

Saints lift the Super League Trophy at Old Trafford
Saints lift the Super League Trophy at Old Trafford

Super Saints ensured there was no fairy-tale ending for surprise finalists Salford by condemning them to a 23-6 defeat in an enthralling Super League title decider at Old Trafford.


Saints, who had finished 16 points clear at the end of the regular season, finally managed to turn on the style on the big stage, quelling the brave challenge of spirited opponents to secure a record seventh Super League title, their first since 2014.

It meant that, after two near misses in 2018 and a heartbreaking Wembley defeat in August, the St Helens players got their wish to send popular coach Justin Holbrook out with a major trophy just as Wigan had done for Shaun Wane 12 months earlier.

Morgan Knowles, Zeb Taia and Mark Percival scored tries and Lachlan Coote kicked five goals from as many attempts to deny Ian Watson's team of so-called misfits who had defied all logic to reach a maiden Grand Final.

They never really looked capable of bridging the 43-year gap since their last title triumph but Salford certainly played their part in an entertaining contest in front of a crowd of 64,102.

It looked ominous for the Red Devils as Saints got off to a storming start through their all-England front row.

Props Alex Walmsley and Luke Thompson set the platform with some power-packed runs but the former also demonstrated some deft handling skills to get loose forward Knowles over for the opening try.

There was also a touch of craft from hooker James Roby as he broke from a scrum 10 metres and got supporting second rower Taia romping over for a try clearly fashioned on the training park.

With Coote adding both conversions to make it 12-0 after 23 minutes, Saints looked set to run away with it, but Salford and star man Jackson Hastings in particular had other ideas.

Stand-off Tui Lolohea jinked his way to the line only to have the try disallowed for obstruction but he then combined with Hastings to create the space for centre Jake Bibby to cross for a try nine minutes before half-time.

Krisnan Inu kicked the touchline conversion to halve the deficit and it was nothing less than the Red Devils deserved.

But the game began to slip away from them nine minutes into the second half, thanks to superb opportunism from England centre Percival.

He ran across the Salford defence and, spotting the full-back out of position, put in a slide-rule grubber, winning the race to touch down for his side's third try.

Coote's third conversion restored the 12-point advantage and he put two scores between the sides with a penalty on the hour after Thompson had been tackled high by Gil Dudson.

Little went right for Salford as they began to chase the game and Coote kicked a second penalty before winger Tom Makinson wrapped up the scoring with a 40-metre drop goal two minutes from the end.

Saints will now get the chance to take on Sydney Roosters in February for the right to be called world champions but Kristian Woolf will have the honour of leading them into that battle as he prepares to fill the considerable hole created by Holbrook's departure.

Player ratings

St Helens

Lachlan Coote: Defensively sound, collecting a number of bombs effortlessly, and faultless kicking, splitting the posts with all five attempts 8 (out of 10)

Tom Makinson: Seemed inhibited after landing awkwardly on his right arm early in the second half but split the posts with a 40-metre drop goal. 7

Kevin Naiqama: Set the tone for Saints' dominance in the first quarter with a heavy hit on Lee Mossop and never let up in intensity. 7

Mark Percival: Produced a moment of magic by racing on to his own grubber for the telling third try. 7

Regan Grace: The wiry winger troubled Salford with his pace and his slipperiness although he was a virtual pedestrian for the second half. 6

Jonny Lomax: A couple of incisive breaks apart, a relatively quiet night for the Saints stand-off. 6

Theo Fages: As with Lomax, the scrum-half performed competently but did not set the pulses racing. 6

Alex Walmsley: Driving run and astute short pass led to the opening try of the match. Difficult to stop the powerhouse prop when he gets on a roll. 8

James Roby: Some clever footwork allowed a deft inside pass to Zeb Taia for Saints' second try. Remains the league's standout hooker. 7

Luke Thompson: A tireless display from the England international, constantly keeping Salford on the back foot. 8

Zeb Taia: Another spirited performance from the second rower, who capped an all-action display with a try. 7

Dominique Peyroux: Industrious enough without making a lasting impression. 6

Morgan Knowles: Took advantage of a small gap in Salford's defence after collecting Walmsley's short pass to break the deadlock after a quarter of an hour. 7

Interchanges

Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook: Made an impact off the bench, keeping Saints on the front foot. 7

Kyle Amor: The veteran may not be first choice but he did not let anyone down here. 7

Jack Ashworth: Perhaps fortunate to avoid punishment after appearing to make head-to-head contact with Krisnan Inu. 6

Aaron Smith: Unable to make an impact. 6

Salford

Niall Evalds: Not much of a threat going forward but defensively solid. 6

Ken Sio: His inability to gather a high ball, albeit under some pressure, led to Saints' second try of the night. 5

Kris Welham: Showed plenty of endeavour but faded as the game wore on. 6

Jake Bibby: Coolly collected Hastings' pass to dive over and get Salford back into the contest. 7

Krisnan Inu: Bore the brunt of a couple of heavy tackles but refused to be cowed. 6

Tuimoala Lolohea: Provided the impetus for Salford's first-half fightback, even if his try after an inventive jinking run was chalked off. 7

Jackson Hastings: Super League's Man of Steel provided an inch-perfect pass for Bibby's try but his high balls lacked penetration. 7

Lee Mossop: Dropped the ball deep in his own half moments after kick-off, inviting some early pressure from Saints. 6

Logan Tomkins: His obstruction led to Lolohea's try being scrubbed while he lacked the inventiveness of Saints counterpart Roby as Salford subsided after the interval. 6

Gil Dudson: Unnecessarily caught Thompson high, leading to a penalty which moved Saints 14 points ahead. 6

Josh Jones: Enthusiastic and willing, this was not the way the Hull-bound second rower would have wanted to sign off from the Red Devils. 7

George Griffin: Gave away a clumsy penalty early on but improved thereafter. 6

Tyrone McCarthy: Drove Salford forward at every opportunity. 6

Interchanges

Joey Lussick: Sensational 40/20 with a quarter of an hour gave Salford hope but they could not capitalise. 7

Mark Flanagan: Unable to make a telling impression. 6

Adam Walker: Unfortunate to be penalised with Salford in a decent position early in the second half. 6

Greg Burke: Showed plenty of heart as the game got away from Salford. 6