There are still plenty of twists and turns to follow in the final few weeks of this most enthralling of Super League seasons but quite how the scriptwriters drummed up this finale, with St Helens winning by two points at Wakefield is anyone’s guess.
Such has been the nature of an unpredictable year it has seemed entirely possible a club’s season could rest on a single play. It is perhaps typical of St Helens that, when they are in desperate need of something, anything, to stay alive, they somehow find it. Jonny Lomax’s try with two minutes remaining, which put the visitors ahead for the first and only time, was that moment but how Saints were aided by their opponents in the closing stages.
Wakefield, to their credit, had played the contest to perfection up until then. It was, in many ways, a microcosm of their season. Handed the opportunity to go six points ahead and guarantee at least a point which would have gone a long way to securing a semi-final spot, Liam Finn, usually so accurate, hit the post. What followed next was St Helens at their very best.
“It’s the never-write-off-St-Helens spirit everyone talks about,” Justin Holbrook said. The Saints coach was right. Finn’s penalty bounced into St Helens’ hands, they scrambled downfield and a seemingly innocuous kick yielded a heartbreaking moment for Trinity fans. The full-back Scott Grix fumbled the ball and failed to kick it dead, allowing Lomax to touch down.
Suddenly, with Wakefield in pole position for a top-four finish and St Helens’ play-off hopes over, the complexion of both sides’ seasons changed dramatically. Wakefield could now finish the weekend outside the play-offs.
“They’re obviously disappointed,” Chris Chester, the Wakefield coach, said of his players. “I’m devastated for them because for 78 minutes we looked in total control. It’s still in our hands, though.”
Wakefield – and Finn – had managed the game magnificently. They led 12-6 at half-time after two tries from Bill Tupou and two goals from the boot of Finn. St Helens’ only response was a Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook try and it was clear who were in control before and after the break.
A Finn penalty made it 14-6 and, even when Theo Fages reduced the gap to two with a try, Finn responded with another penalty to ease Trinity’s nerves and make it 16-12.
The madness began in the closing moments with Finn’s missed penalty – “they grew an extra leg when that missed,” Chester said – before Lomax’s frantic try. It is surely the most extraordinary finish to a game all season but, with St Helens still in the mix for Old Trafford, one cannot say with any conviction that will remain the case.
Wakefield Grix; Jones-Bishop, Lyne, Arundel, Tupou; Miller, Finn; England, Randell, Hirst, Kirmond, Ashurst, Arona. Interchange Hadley, Annakin, Huby, Fifita.
Tries Tupou 2. Goals Finn 4.
St Helens Barba; Makinson, Lomax, Percival, Grace; Fages, Richardson; Douglas, Roby, Thompson, Taia, Knowles, Wilkin. Interchange Walmsley, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Peyroux, Lees.
Tries McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Fages, Lomax. Goals Percival 3.
Referee B Thaler. Attendance 4,837.