Wigan Warriors booked their place in a first Challenge Cup final since 2017 after holding off a second half comeback from St Helens at Elland Road.
The Warriors led 14-0 at the break thanks to tries from Liam Marshall, Cade Cust and Liam Farrell. But tries from Konrad Hurrell, Jonny Lomax and James Roby, all converted by Tommy Makinson put Saints in front.
But Marshall’s second try 10 minutes from time put Wigan back in front, and that was the way it stayed.
Wigan made only one change to the side that beat Warrington last week. Joe Shorrocks came in to replace Sam Halsall on the bench.
Meanwhile, Saints made two changes to the side that beat Salford. They welcomed back Konrad Hurrell and Curtis Sironen from suspension, they replaced Will Hopoate and Sam Royle. The big news was that Jonny Lomax was passed fit, and started in the halves alongside Ben Davies.
The Warriors took the lead after just three minutes. After Josh Simm failed to take in a high ball, Wigan were able to work the ball out to the left-hand side and Jake Bibby was able to put Liam Marshall over in the corner. Harry Smith missed the conversion attempt, meaning the Warriors’ lead stood at four points.
Saints then missed a great chance to level the game. Smith knocked on close to the line, giving them a full set. However, a pass went to ground and Bevan French intercepted the ball. It was only a brilliant cover tackle from Jack Welsby that stopped French going all the way. Joe Batchelor was then sent to the sin bin for stopping French from playing the ball.
Just two minutes later, Wigan were able to make the extra man count. Cade Cust threw a dummy, and was able to get through the gap and score. Smith was again off-target with the conversion attempt.
Just before the half-hour, Wigan extended their lead. Liam Farrell stepped away from Welsby and went through a huge gap to score by the posts. Smith added the conversion to put Wigan ahead by 14.
Saints’ best chance of the first half came soon after. Jonny Lomax put a towering kick towards the corner and it was collected by Mark Percival. But the centre was stopped just short on the last play.
HT- Wigan 14-0 St Helens
The defending champions had to strike first in the second half, and they did eight minutes in. Welsby dropped a short pass to Konrad Hurrell, who was able to get a hand free and plant the ball down. Makinson kicked the conversion to get themselves back within eight points.
With just 10 minutes gone in the second half, St Helens claimed their second try. Jonny Lomax’s kick was aimed high, Tommy Makinson got there first and patted the ball down for Lomax to score. Makinson then converted to make it just a two-point game.
St Helens completed the turnaround just before the hour mark. James Roby came onto the ball after a repeat set, and jinxed around the defence and got an arm free to score. Makinson scored the conversion to put Saints ahead by four points.
Wigan were under pressure, and needed something to bring them back alive. They got it with 10 minutes to go. Lomax’s pass to Welsby went to ground, and Marshall picked the ball up and ran 80 metres to grab his second of the afternoon. Smith converted to put the Warriors back in front by two points.
That was the way it stayed, meaning Saints’ hold on the Challenge Cup was broken. Attention for them now turns to the Super League. They face Hull FC next week.
Meanwhile, Wigan’s hopes of a first Challenge Cup since 2013 are very much alive and kicking. They will hope to get their first trophy since Shaun Wane’s reign as Head Coach ended at the end of the month.
FT- Wigan 20-18 St Helens
Wigan: Field, French, Thornley, Bibby, Marshall, Cust, Smith, Singleton, O’Neill, Byrne, Farrell, Bateman, Smithies. Subs: Mago, Ellis, Havard, Shorrocks.
Tries: Marshall (2), Cust, Farrell
Goals: Smith 2/4
St Helens: Welsby, Makinson, Hurrell, Percival, Simm, Davies, Lomax, Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Mata’utia, Batchelor, Knowles. Subs: Lussick, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Paasi, Sironen.
Tries: Hurrell, Lomax, Roby
Goals: Makinson 3/3