Saints overcame a determined Huddersfield Giants outfit to over turn a 10-4 half time deficit and pull off a 12-8 win despite a stuttering performance. Second half tries from Matt Gidley and Francis Meli eventually saw off the visitors.
An encouraging first half performance saw the below strength Giants compile a10–0 lead through tries from Sean Lunt and Leroy Cudjoe, plus a Cudjoe goal in the opening 10 minutes. Saints answered with an Ade Gardner touchdown.
That could have been overshadowed though by a knee-ligament injury to Danny Kirkmond who was carried off on a stretcher and must now be a doubt for Wembley.
Saints welcomed back Sean Long after a six game absence during which they lost every time they met Yorkshire opposition, including a costly defeat to the Giants in the Carnegie Challenge Cup semi-final. But no one who saw the team sheet would have been thinking about revenge.
Facing their first Wembley final since the Beatles debuted, the Giants opted to turn out a second string selection.
Yet, despite the weakened line-up the Giants struck twice early to take a shock 10-0 lead.
Former Saints’ academy hooker, Sean Lunt, darted between the posts in the second minute and Leory Cidjoe squeezed in at the left corner on nine minutes.
It also proved to be something of a turning point. Saints capitalising on field position with Long’s chip to the right wing giving Gardner acres of room to cross at the corner.
The Giants refused to buckle though and only try-saving tackles from Lomax and then Roby denied Simon Finnigan scores as the half ran out.
After an equally rocky start the second half Saints did finally find some sort of rhythm. Good fortune saw them awarded a scrum in front of the Giants posts after Elliot Hodgson was harshly ruled to have knocked on. They struck quickly with Matt Gidley going in at the right corner.
And from their Saints kicked-on, mounting concerted pressure on a steady Giants defence. Consecutive line drop outs established field position and momentum and Meli was twice denied scores by video referee decisions.
Meli finally put Saints ahead on 64 minutes, barrelling over at the left corner courtesy of Lomax’s quick pass.
Wellens, Gardner, Gidley, Lomax, Meli, Pryce, Long, Graham, Cunningham, Puletua, Wilkin, Flannery, Gilmour
Subs: Roby, Clough, Ashurst, Emmitt
T: Gardner (18), Gidley (48), Meli (64)
G: Long 0/2, Lomax 0/1
E Hodhgson, Cudjoe, J Griffin, Lawrence, A Brown, Hemingway, Moore, DGriffin, Lunt, Jackson, Finnigan, Kirkmond, Aspinwall
Subs: Raleigh, Carlile, Patrick, D Sculthorpe
T: Lunt (1), Cudjoe (8)
G: Cudjoe 1/2
1 Lunt try Cudjoe goal 1/1 0-6
8 Cudjoe try Cudjoe miss 1/2 0-10
18 Gardner try, Long miss 0/1 4-10
48 Gidley try 8-10
64 Meli try 12-8
Referee: Ian Smith
Saints coach, Mick Potter, was pleased to get the result, but needs to see improvement: “”It was better in the second half but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. We were scratchy in the first half and didn’t execute our plays. Maybe we overplayed things.”
Potter was critical too of the Giants ruck play saying: “It was hard in attack because of the rucks and the flopping. It means you don’t get rewarded for quick play the balls because of the flopping and the slow play the balls. We need to get better at flopping on more if the other teams doing it to us”.
Giants coach, Paul Anderson, was please with the commitment shows by the young team saying: “it was a great effort. We were all set for a massive fall. We just asked for a big effort and took heart from our reserve team’s performance earlier. Everyone ought to give their best … they did everything we asked of them.”
Anderson reevealed: “Danny (Kirkmond) has got to go an have scans and tests. I wouldn’t like to say what the situation is.”