St Helens teenager Jack Welsby secures dramatic Grand Final victory with late try

Ross Heppenstall
·3-min read
Jack Welsby — St Helens teenager Jack Welsby secures dramatic Grand Final victory with late try - PA
Jack Welsby — St Helens teenager Jack Welsby secures dramatic Grand Final victory with late try - PA

Wigan Warriors 4 St Helens 8

Two contrasting images from the most dramatic Super League Grand Final in history will endure long after the events of an emotionally fraught encounter have faded from the memory.

The first was of St Helens’ players leaping the air like wild men after homegrown centre, Jack Welsby, scored the match-winning try at the very death after Tommy Makinson’s drop-goal attempt rebounded off a post.

The second, equally telling image was of Wigan’s shattered players laid morose on the turf after what was for them a devastating end to an incredibly hard-fought encounter.

It was a fairytale finish for retiring St Helens forward, James Graham, but a painful way for Sean O’Loughlin, the Wigan captain, to bow out after 19 seasons at his hometown club.

That Welsby is a homegrown Saints product and, at 19 the youngest player on the pitch, added to the celebrations.

Welsby, whose try came after the final hooter had sounded, said: “I can’t put it into words how I'm feeling right now.

“I backed Tommy to kick it but I chased as hard as I could but you couldn't write it. I'm made up. I don't think I'll ever top anything like that in my career for my hometown, it's amazing.”

Kristian Woolf, the St Helens coach, said: “It was unreal. It just shows you don't give up on any play. A young kid playing his first Grand Final and he's a real player for the future. To score a try like that to win a Grand Final, it doesn't get much better than that.”

Adrian Lam, the Wigan coach, struggled to comprehend what he had just witnessed: “I don’t know what to say. It’s surreal and heartbreaking for the team, the supporters and the club.

“We did everything possible at the end to get the win and I thought we deserved it because we had opportunities.”

All 22 previous Super League Grand Finals had been staged at Old Trafford but this year’s title decider was moved to Hull’s KCOM Stadium due to Manchester United’s fixture congestion.

Chances were scarce throughout with defences firmly on top, with James Roby, St Helens’ captain who won the Harry Sunderland Trophy as man of the match, and Wigan centre, Zak Hardaker both going close.

When Wigan’s rookie forward, Morgan Smithies was penalised for a shoulder charge on Lachlan Coote right on the stroke of half-time, the St Helens kicked the resultant two-pointer to give his side a 2-0 interval advantage.

It was a fine kick from Coote and brought the lowest-scoring half in Grand Final history to a close an Saints began to dominate as the second half unfolded.

As the second half unfolded, Roby’s kick was grounded by Zeb Taia, the retiring second-rower, and after referee Chris Kendall ruled no try on the field, his decision was confirmed by video referee, Ben Thaler.

With 17 minutes remaining, Jake Bibby attempted to dive over in the right corner but fell just short, yet his time would soon arrive.

This time, delightful handling sequence saw Bibby finish in style from Bevan French’s pass to put Wigan 4-2 up, but Hardaker’s conversion attempt hit the post.

A penalty from Coote levelled matters at 4-4 up but, with extra-time looming, there was still time for Welsby to strike after French failed to cleart to ensure Saints retained their Super League crown.

O’Loughlin, given a guard of honour out of respect as he left the field, said: “It’s gutting but that's sport.

“I thought it was an unbelievable game. There's nothing we can do about it now, it's done. We can't have too many regrets, it happens.”