St Helens book Super League Grand Final place after Joe Batchelor inspires Kristian Woolf’s side to 19-12 victory over Salford to and will look to win back-to-back championships against Leeds next Saturday
- St Helens defeat Salford 19-12 in the Super League Championship semi-final
- Joe Batchelor bags two tries in five minutes to inspire defending champions
- Kristian Woolf’s side will play Leeds in next Saturday’s final at Old Trafford
St Helens will play Leeds in the Grand Final after two tries in five minutes from second rower Joe Batchelor helped the defending Super League champions to a 19-12 victory over Salford in a spellbinding semi-final at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
Saints held off a tremendous fightback from the Red Devils, who had trailed 12-0 after 16 minutes, to earn a victory that will give them the opportunity to send popular coach Kristian Woolf out on a high at Old Trafford next Saturday evening.
Saints will be looking to complete an unprecedented fourth successive Grand Final victory in a repeat of the 2011 decider which Leeds won 32-16.
St Helens players celebrate their 19-12 win over Salford to reach Super League Grand Final
Woolf will be especially delighted with the way his side overcame the loss of England front rower Alex Walmsley, with Agnatius Paasi and Matty Lees stepping up to the plate magnificently to offset his considerable absence.
Already without Man of Steel contender Brodie Croft, Salford were dealt another desperately unlucky blow after only two minutes when Andy Ackers was forced out of the action after an ill-timed tackle on full-back Jon Bennison which left him reeling.
Although the Red Devils had a specialist replacement in Amir Bourouh, they sorely missed the elusive running of their first-choice hooker.
Batchelor had already forced his way into England coach Shaun Wane’s World Cup plans and he provided a timely reminder of his impressive form with the opening try, grounding Jonny Lomax’s grubber kick after going preciously close to opening the scoring in similar fashion four minutes earlier.
Joe Batchelor was the hero for St Helens as he helped their book a final meeting with Leeds
Batchelor scored two tries in five minutes as St Helens ran out 19-12 winners against Salford
Lomax was also the provider four minutes later, this time with a sweetly-executed short pass, to get the former York man over for his second try and he went close to completing a hat-trick as he pursued Jack Welsby’s grubber kick.
Tommy Makinson converted both tries for a 12-0 lead but Salford were given a helping hand on 23 minutes when loose forward Morgan Knowles, who plays his rugby close to the edge, went too far with a dangerous tackle on Chris Atkin and was sent to the sin bin.
Atkin was also on the end of a crunching, albeit legal, tackle from Welsby as Saints maintained their aggressive defence in a bid to close down Salford’s danger men.
The Red Devils took advantage of the extra man as Kallum Watkins, enjoying a new lease of life following his switch to the second row, went through a gap for a try, which Marc Sneyd goaled.
St Helens ‘ manager Kristian Woolfe is set to leave the club after next weekend’s Super League Grand Final against Leeds at Old Trafford
Makinson was wide with a long-range penalty attempt but Lomax put two scores between the teams with a drop goal on the stroke of half-time, when Saints led 13-6.
The champions had a try disallowed early in the second half when referee Chris Kendall ruled a double movement against Lees and that gave Salford all the encouragement they needed.
Slick handling got winger Joe Burgess into space and full-back Ryan Brierley finished off with his 12th try of the campaign.
Sneyd’s second goal brought the visitors to within a point and skipper Elijah Taylor thought he had put them in front on 65 minutes only to have a try disallowed for an obstruction in the build-up.
St Helens fans are off to Old Trafford for the second successive Super League Grand Final
It proved to be Salford’s last hope as Saints came up with the decisive score, with a helping hand from Watkins after his careless offload gifted them possession 30 metres out.
Lomax was once played the key role with a clever kick which created the all-important try from Bennison.
Makinson’s third goal made it 19-12 but there was another dramatic twist when the England winger was sin-binned five minutes from the end for obstructing Salford centre Tim Lafai’s chase for the ball.
The 3,500 Salford fans screamed for a penalty try but Paul Rowley’s men had to settle for a penalty and 12-man Saints were able to defend their line and see out the victory.