How time flies! Saints won’t be competing in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final on Saturday but it hardly seems 10 years ago since they last graced the Wembley showpiece - returning home in triumph after a hard-fought 28-16 victory over Hull FC in front of 82,821 fans.
It was the final trophy Aussie Daniel Anderson collected in an unprecedented spell of success as head coach before returning home.
At the time Saints’ supporters looked on a trip to the cup final as an annual pilgrimage - but not any more.
So maybe on the eve of this year’s showdown between Warrington Wolves and the Catalans iDragons, it’s time to turn back the clock to Saturday, August 30, 2008, and remind them of happier times on a red-hot day in the capital when, despite not playing to their full potential and losing influential skipper Paul Sculthorpe with a shoulder injury, St Helens had too much know-how and experience for the Airlie Birds.
They went into the final odds-on favourites against a far from full strength Hull outfit and soon established control via early tries from Matt Gidley and Francis Meli and a Sean Long goal.
But the underdogs, who had been non-existence as a potent attacking force in the opening 40 minutes, showed their durability on the resumption by scoring through a Kirk Yeaman interception try and Danny Tickle goal.
They then rocked Saints by having the temerity to snatch a 12-10 lead following a second Yeaman try and Tickle conversion and began to ask one or two more questions.
But is also acted as a much-needed wake-up call for Anderson’s outfit and they responded with a second Meli try and a touch down from Jon Wilkin to regain a grip on proceedings at 22-12 with nine minutes left on the clock.
Hull were far from finished, however, and when Gareth Raynor squeezed over in the left-hand corner a final twist in the tail was on the cards - only for Leon Pryce to pick up a peach of a pass from Keiron Cunningham to romp over the whitewash, leaving Long to notch his fourth goal, and help Saints complete their fifth cup final triumph of the new Millennium.
Teams - Saints: Paul Wellens (Lance Trophy winner), Ade Gardner, Matt Gidley, Willie Talau, 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, Mauire Fa’asavalu.
Hull FC: Todd Byrne, Matt Sing, Graeme Horne, Kirk Yeaman, Gareth Raynor, Danny Washbrook, Tommy Lee, Ewan Dowes, Shaun Berrigan, Peter Cushack, Willie Manu, Danny Tickle, Lee Radford. Subs: Richard Horne, Garreth Carvell, Tom Briscoe,James Thackary.
Referee: Steve Ganson (St Helens).
Still on a Wembley theme, good luck to two sons of St Helens who will be totally immersed in Saturday’s Challenge Cup Final but in different roles.
Kevin Brown will be hoping to make up for the disappointment of picking up losers’ medals as a Wigan and Huddersfield Giants player by helping steer his present club, Warrington Wolves, to victory over the Catalans Dragons, while the club’s assistant coach Lee Briers - a three-times cup final winner - will be passing on his valuable advice and experience of the ‘big day out.’
Brown, whose early playing days were spent with home-town junior clubs Blackbrook, Pilkington Recs and Haydock Warriors, made it crystal clear when he moved from Widnes to the Halliwell-Jones Stadium ahead of the 2017 season that one of his major aims was to get his hands on the Challenge Cup - and it is now in touching distance.
So, too, is a possible Grand Final triumph but no doubt this also applies to Saints, Wigan Warriors and Castleford Tigers.