|29th Sep 2006||SLPOQF||HOME||14038||HT:6-6|
|MATCH NOTES : Saints qualified for their fourth Grand Final. The crowd was the highest home attendance against Hull since 1959. |
|Age in brackets is at time of match - Total average age for this team is 26. - ** non-playing sub|
MATCH REPORT : Saints reached their first Grand Final in four years with a magnificent performance in an enthralling semi-final against a tenacious Hull FC side who must now win next week to keep alive hopes of a first final appearance.
The match between the two sides in June, when Hull edged home 27-26, had been one of the games of the season and this encounter was every bit as skilful and tense.
Saints spent most of the opening ten minutes pinned in their own half although crucially Hull rarely threatened despite their territorial dominance.
The only clear break in those early stages had come through Saints prop Jason Cayless but a Hull hand prevented the pass reaching the supporting Jon Wilkin.
The visitors were very quick and aggressive in defence but this counted against them as they conceded three penalties in as many minutes to lay the platform for Saints to break through.
Keiron Cunningham’s pass was collected on the bounce by Ade Gardner who stepped inside two defenders to claim his thirtieth try of the season, albeit slightly against the run of play.
The try was indicative of the shifting momentum that was now firmly with the home side. However that came to a shuddering halt when referee Ashley Klein adjudged that winger Francis Meli had lost the ball in a tackle by Lee Radford.
From the resulting possession Hull’s own try-scoring machine Kirk Yeaman crashed over with Paul Cooke’s towering touchline conversion leveling the scores.
The game continued to be hard-fought but both teams sought to play enterprising rugby in the face of stern defence and it was no surprise when Hull, then Saints, opted to take two points on offer from their opponents’ indiscretions.
With the teams tied at 8-8 and the game entering the final quarter, Great Britain internationals Sean Long and Lee Gilmour combined to send the second-rower downfield. His pass was low but Meli scooped down to collect the ball off his bootlaces and touch down.
Both teams maintained a relentless pace but the defences refused to buckle and the one time that Cooke did find a way through the defensive line Paul Wellens was on hand to snuff out the attack.
Willie Talau thought he had sealed the victory with three minutes remaining but the play was brought back for a forward pass. The home fans in the 14,000 crowd needn’t have been too concerned though as Saints’ defence prevented Hull from getting too close. Next stop: Old Trafford!
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