St Helens See Off Spirited Whitehaven To Reach Challenge Cup Quarters

The wide scoreline suggests one-way traffic, but Whitehaven provided great value at the LEL Arena
16:00, 26 Mar 2022

St Helens did what was expected of them, beating Whitehaven by a wide margin to progress to the Betfred Challenge Cup quarter-final. The 46-4 scoreline does not reflect the tremendous effort put up by the Betfred Championship side. They battled hard, and provided their home fans with some moments to savour before they succumbed to the reigning Super League champions and Challenge Cup holders. 

Whitehaven did not start like a team 20 places below their opponents in the rugby league pyramid. A crunching early tackle from Tom Wilkinson set the tone, as the home side forced an early error in the first Saints set. Whitehaven’s pressure then forced a Regan Grace knock-on, as Jonty Gorley’s side forced a third successive set.

There was a lengthy break in play as former Saint Liam Cooper was stretchered off the field. The Whitehaven number 12 appeared to be receiving treatment for a neck or spinal issue, and the medics were cautious in moving him from the field. The Sportsman extend their wishes for a speedy recovery to Cooper.

A huge line-break from Wilkinson saw Alex Bishop race alongside him in support in a brilliant moment of counter-attacking rugby. Whitehaven gained valuable ground, and continued to frustrate St Helens at every turn. Sadly for Gorley’s side, Wilkinson pulled up with a shoulder complaint. Whitehaven were already up against it playing perhaps rugby league’s finest team, but they now had to do so down to just two substitutes.

The try finally arrived twenty minutes in, and it went the way of Saints. Joe Batchelor showed pace and power when taking the pass from Lewis Dodd and crossing over. Tommy Makinson converted as the stubborn Whitehaven resistance was finally broken.

With the bit now between their teeth, Kristian Woolf’s side attacked with renewed vigour. A great shape from St Helens freed up Curtis Sironen to crash over before Makinson made it two from two in conversions.

Whitehaven-born Saint Kyle Amor then got his moment in front of his hometown fans, as he took a nice short ball from Joey Lussick over from the ruck. It was written in the stars that Amor would make the headlines today, and the 34-year-old took his try well. After the conversion, Whitehaven were staring down an 18-point deficit going into half time.

Whitehaven were not beaten yet though, and they proved it seven minutes into the second half. Karl Dixon crossed the line wide on the left to give the home side the try they richly deserved. Ryan King evaded the attention of Jonny Lomax to play the ball wide and Dixon sent the LEL Arena into raptures. The conversion attempt from Alex Bishop was incredibly poor, but the try was a tremendous statement of intent as we moved into the second half.

Dan Norman blazed through the centre and went through between the sticks as Whitehaven failed to protect the ruck. Once again it was Lussick with the short ball, as Saints once again exposed defensive frailties in the home side. Makinson made his fourth conversion from four attempts to open up a 20-point lead that looked unassailable. 

The floodgates were then kicked firmly open by Lewis Dodd who powered through for a try of his own. Almost inevitably it was converted, and the gap between a full-time Super League side and a semi-pro outfit became clear. The rout continued when Jonny Lomax pounced on a loose ball to score. For the first time, Makinson did not successfully convert which left the score at 34-4.

After being instrumental in two tries during a sunny afternoon at the LEL Arena, Joey Lussick scored one for himself. Geronimo Doyle just could not get under Lussick for the tackle, and he crossed over to extend the lead further. Makinson converted to take the score to 40-4. 

James Roby marked his five-minute cameo from the bench with a late try. The 36-year-old Saints great tied a bow on a great afternoon for rugby league, and it was just left to Makinson to make the conversion.

Saints showed their class, and this was always a big ask for Whitehaven. But Jonty Gorley’s side will have learned a lot in just over 80 minutes of rugby against the best side in the game. For Saints, they march on to try and retain their Betfred Challenge Cup trophy.

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