St Helens v Warrington: Challenge Cup Final Preview

Photo by RFL

24 August 2019 - Written by Callum Walker

The form of both of these sides going into this final could not be more different. Saints have lost just once in ten games whilst Warrington have won only three games in ten fixtures.

Though the formbook is said to be thrown out the window in cup games, the Wolves have had a remarkable downfall in the league with their last victory in those ten games coming in the cup semi-final against Hull FC in late July. Crucially for St Helens, Warrington’s star man Blake Austin left the field through injury and is still a heavy doubt for Saturday’s game.

St Helens, meanwhile, are 16 points clear at the top of Super League and are massive favourites for the upcoming clash at Wembley. However, they themselves showed how little league form meant in 2018 when it came to the business end of the season as Saints floundered when it mattered most – in the Challenge Cup semi-final and Grand Final semi-final play-offs.

The Wolves will be hunting for a similar kind of result that Catalans and they themselves inflicted on St Helens last year in the two competitions respectively. But, is this Saints side of 2019 a different animal?

Just three defeats all season – two of them against bottom side London Broncos with a severely weakened team – has seen the Lancashire club not just replicate but better their 2018 season so far.

It is likely to be one of the most fierce finals seen at Wembley in years with Saints being absent from the hallowed turf for more than a decade. Warrington, meanwhile, want to right the wrongs of 2016 and 2018 where they lost to Hull FC and Catalans respectively.

This clash is not only the first time the two sides have ever met in the Challenge Cup Final, it also pits friend against friend. Warrington boss Steve Price and Saints coach Justin Holbrook became friends at the age of seven through schoolboy rugby league and it is ironic that the two may meet for the last time before Holbrook departs in a major final.

Saints do have two players missing in the shape of Matty Lees and Aaron Smith through injury and suspension respectively. Josh Charnley and Jack Hughes replace Matty Smith and Lama Tasi in Price’s 19-man squad, though star halfback Blake Austin has not been named in it with Price giving him as long as possible to prove his fitness.

The problem for Warrington is that Saints have strike threats all over the field; from Tommy Makinson to Jonny Lomax, from Luke Thompson to James Roby, this St Helens side is one of the most balanced and impressive in Super League history and if any Warrington player is not on their day then the red vee will punish them.  ST HELENS FOR THE WIN

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