St Helens triumphed in the Betfred Super League Grand Final with a 24-12 victory over Leeds Rhinos. It was a scintillating display from Saints to clinch this 25th Grand Final. The last four have all been won by The Red V during an incredible period of dominance.
Big occasions can often begin as cagey affairs and, while no occasion is bigger than the Grand Final, there was no hint of reluctance at Old Trafford. Matty Lees went over in under three minutes to secure the quickest Super League Grand Final try in history. Tommy Makinson converted to put the Rhinos on the back foot early.
Jonny Lomax went close to piling on the misery with a fine break that was snuffed out just five yards short of the try line. Mark Percival also found himself on the receiving end of some superb Leeds defending when he was bundled into touch wide on the left.
Saints were rampant though and it was only a matter of time before Jon Bennison scored the second try of this Grand Final. Jack Welsby’s short kick was gobbled up by the 19-year-old, who only made his professional debut a year and a week ago. Makinson made it two from two with a classy conversion from the left wing and the Saints were marching.
Rhyse Martin was penalised for a tackle on Lomax, when he was adjudged to have lifted the stand-off’s legs above his head. The tackle drew a furious reaction from Welsby and sparked handbags on both sides. The referee restored control and did not dole out a booking, perhaps recognising the importance of keeping a full complement on the field on such an occasion if possible.
Against the run of play, Kruise Leeming pulled one back for Rhinos on the stroke of halftime. Martin converted to send Leeds into half time with a foothold in this frenetic Grand Final. A game that had looked at times like becoming a rout was now intriguingly poised.
Saints showed their resiliency at the start of the second half and within six minutes they had a 12-point lead once more. Konrad Hurrell collected a Lomax pass and charged through three Rhinos players to get the ball down. The video referee had a look and the try was given. Makinson converted and St Helens were flying.
A searing Hurrell run ended up under the sticks. Welsby gave him an option and then stuck a grubber kick through for Percival to score. Makinson continued his solid form from the field to convert once more and hand Saints a 24-6 lead.
Martin went over to offer Leeds a lifeline. The on-field decision was no-try and it was backed up by the video officials. Will Hopoate held the second-row forward up brilliantly to kibosh the chance. With 15 minutes remaining, Rhinos had missed an opportunity to plant some late doubt in Saints’ minds.
Martin would go over legitimately with ten minutes remaining. While it looked unlikely to decide the destination of the Grand Final trophy, the roar from the Rhinos fans was cacophonous. Martin converted to take the record for most consecutive successful Super League kicks, scoring his 38th in a row.
St Helens continue this unmatched period of Grand Final transcendence. Leeds gave them a game today but never genuinely looked like triumphing in front of a raucous Old Trafford. But as closing chapters go, this was a tremendous way to cap off another Betfred Super League season.
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