Woolf's Saints make Super Lge grand final

·3-min read

St Helens will play Leeds in Super League's grand final after two tries in five minutes from second rower Joe Batchelor helped Kristian Woolf's defending champions to a 19-12 victory over Salford.

After a spellbinding semi-final at Saints' Totally Wicked Stadium on Saturday, Australian Woolf, who'll be gunning for a hat-trick of titles in next week's final at Old Trafford before departing for the NRL, was given a guard of honour by his players to mark his last home game.

Saints held off a tremendous fightback from the Red Devils, who had trailed 12-0 after 16 minutes, to earn a victory that will give them the opportunity to send their popular leader out on a high before Woolf returns to become an assistant coach with the new Dolphins NRL franchise.

Saints will be looking to complete an unprecedented fourth successive grand final victory in a repeat of the 2011 decider which Leeds won 32-16, while Woolf is going for a unique 'threepeat' by any Super League coach.

It all left Queenslander Woolf declaring his team to be the most successful in the history of Super League.

"I can't find enough words to describe how hard it is to do that," Woolf said of their achievement in making four straight finals.

"But what this group has been able to do over the last four years, in my mind, makes it the most successful group in Super League history and this is an opportunity to go and cement that.

"There is a lot of hard work to be done - it's going to be a cracking game," he added, relishing the duel with a Leeds side coached by fellow Australian Rohan Smith.

Woolf was especially delighted with the way his side overcame the loss of England front rower Alex Walmsley, with Agnatius Paasi and Matty Lees stepping up to the plate magnificently to offset his considerable absence.

Already without their Australian Man of Steel contender Brodie Croft, Salford were dealt another desperately unlucky blow after only two minutes when Andy Ackers was forced out of the action after an ill-timed tackle on full-back Jon Bennison which left him reeling.

Although the Red Devils had a specialist replacement in Amir Bourouh, they sorely missed the elusive running of their first-choice hooker.

Jonny Lomax, with a grubber kick and then a sweetly-executed short pass, put Batchelor over for two early tries but Salford hit back after Saints' Morgan Knowles was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle, as Kallum Watkins went through a gap for a try.

Down 13-6 at the break, Salford full-back Ryan Brierley finished off with his 12th try of the campaign as they fought back to within a point and skipper Elijah Taylor thought he had put them in front on 65 minutes only to have a try disallowed for an obstruction in the build-up.

Saints then came up with the decisive score with Lomax's clever kick created the all-important try for Jonathan Bennison.

Tommy Makinson's third goal made it 19-12 but there was another dramatic twist when the England winger was sin-binned five minutes from the end for obstructing Salford centre Tim Lafai's chase for the ball.

The 3,500 Salford fans screamed for a penalty try but Paul Rowley's men had to settle for a penalty and 12-man Saints were able to defend their line and see out the victory.