Yates’ view: A classic cup tie that had it all

St Helens' Regan Grace scores his side's third  try during the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter final win over Hull FC
St Helens' Regan Grace scores his side's third try during the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter final win over Hull FC
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The 1960s smash hit ‘Glad All Over’ by the Dave Clarke Five boomed out over the loudspeaker system before Saints and Hull FC locked horns in the quarter final stages of the Ladbrooks Challenge Cup at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

It also summed up the feeling of the home fans at the end of an epic encounter which balanced delicately on a knife’s edge until the final hooter sounded.

Head coach Justin Holbrook used the word relief to describe his thoughts at the 25-22 scoreline - and no one could argue with his honest assessment of a mind-numbing 80 minutes which will be talked about for years to come by those privileged to be present, or watched it unfold in front of the BBC TV cameras.

Having covered St Helens matches long before the advent of summer rugby, I find it hard to recall a comparable match in terms of end-to-end rugby, totally commitment in which no prisoners were taken, bone-shuddering tackles, scintillating tries, edge-of-the-seat excitement and more twists and turns than a country lane.

Neither set of supporters could have complained whatever the final outcome had been but back-to-back trophy winners were their own worst enemy due to indiscipline.

They had three players dispatched to the sin-bin - two of which were shown a yellow cards in the space of a few first-half minutes - and punished when Saints then grabbed a couple of crucial tries and never surrendered a 23-12 interval lead.

In their followers’ eyes, it cost the Airlie Birds a possible chance of victory and while it is a moot point, it should not override the contribution victors Saints made to a game which was red-hot in every sense of word and how both sets of players went at it hammer and tongs from start to finish in temperatures of more than 70 degrees is testimony to their fitness and stamina.

Holbrook said: “My overriding emotion is relief, I think that it a fair answer to give. Hull kept coming at us and you could see why they had won the trophy in the past two years. We were ready to take control but never really

had it.

“I have to give Hull a massive rap for the way they played. They stuck it to us and I was happy to come away with the win.

“When they lost players to the bin we panicked a bit and probably expected to put them away. I thought our game management struggled at times – particularly at the back end of the second half. We need to be a little more patient in that area.”

He added: “On the flip side, I am happy with how hard we worked to win. We only won by three but I didn’t feel too threatened on our own line at the end of the game.

“We will learn a lot from that but I am just relieved as they are a good opposition. I thought we created a lot of things but didn’t convert as we might have done in recent weeks.

“Regan Grace was outstanding and had his best game for us since I arrived in this country.”

MATCH FACTS

Saints - tries: Percival (13 mins, 36 mins), Grace (15 mins, 33 mins),

Goals: Richardson (14 mins, 34 mins, 37 mins, 56 mins)

Drop goal: Richardson (40 mins)

Hull FC - tries: Kelly (19 mins), Green (22 mins), Taylor (53 mins),

Miloudi(70 mins)

Goals: Connor (20,22 and 54 mins)

Half-time: 23-12

Full-time: 25-22

Referee:Ben Thaler.

Teams - Saints: 23. Ben Barba; 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4.

Mark Percival, 19. Regan Grace; 1. Jonny Lomax, 18. Danny Richardson;

10. Kyle Amor, 9. James Roby, 16. Luke Thompson, 17. Dom Peyroux, 11.

Zeb Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin.

Subs: 6. Theo Fages, 14. Luke Douglas 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook,

15. Morgan Knowles.

Hull FC:1. Jamie Shaul; 2. Bureta Faraimo, 24. Jack Logan, 3. Carlos

Tuimavave, 28. Hakim Miloudi; 6. Albert Kelly, 14. Jake Connor; 15.

Chris Green, 9. Danny Houghton, 8. Scott Taylor, 12. Mark Minichiello,

21. Sika Manu, 11. Dean Hadley.

Subs: 17. Danny Washbrook, 20. Brad Fash, 23. Mickey Paea, 29.

Masimbaashe Matongo.