Saints had to swallow the bitter pill of defeat at the hands of defending champions Wigan Warriors last night (Friday), going down 22-10 in the Academy Grand Final at the DW Stadium.
It was also the last U19s Grand Final before the switch to U18s next year – to accommodate the return of the reserves – and the two sides did the fixture justice.
Saints’ coach Justin Holbrook, GB legend Paul Sculthorpe and Super League chief executive Robert Elstone were among those in the directors’ box, while there was a strong following from both sides.
Both had chances before Saints centre Josh Simm broke the deadlock in the 15th minute. He brushed off a challenge from Adam Holt and angled through the cover defence to cross for a try Lewis Dodd converted.
Simm was one of two with first-team experience, along with full-back Jack Welsby. Wigan, meanwhile, had four players who have been given a taste of Super League this year – Harry Smith, Ethan Havard, Joe Shorrocks and Amir Bourouh.
The hosts were steadily improving and after Harry Rushton was denied by Welsby in the corner, hooker Bourouh scooped up the ball from dummy-half and pinballed through the defence. Smith’s conversion levelled the score minutes before half-time.
Saints wasted little time in retaking the lead, though, Welsby striking a 40-20 and Nico Rizzelli crossing for an unconverted try.
It gave Saints a 10-6 lead at the break but two minutes after the restart Wigan centre Sam Halsall crashed over to level the scores and Smith’s touchline conversion nudged them two points ahead.
Tempers spilled over midway through the half after Rizzelli was shoved into the hoardings, but Wigan regained their cool to extend their lead when Umyla Hanley’s pass sent Roberts charging through a stretched line.
Smith’s conversion opened up an eight-point lead. Hanley had a try ruled out for offside before Holcroft angled over in the final play of the game.
Wigan: Umyla Hanley; Cian Tyrer, Sam Halsall, Max Roberts, Ben Holcroft; Adam Holt, Harry Smith; Nathan Wilde, Aiden Roden, Ethan Havard, James McDonnell, Harry Rushton, Joe Shorrocks. Subs: Jack Bibby, Amir Bourouh, Ben O’Keefe, Oscar Stone.
St Helens: Jack Welsby; Jumah Sambou, Nico Rizzelli, Josh Simm, Brad Holroyd; Owain Abel, Lewis Dodd; Kye Siyani, Paul Nash, Harry Brooks, Matthew Foster, Lewis Baxter, Sam Royle. S
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