Warrington 20-18 St Helens: Wolves claim spoils in Challenge Cup thriller
Last Updated: 19/09/20 5:04pm
Josh Charnley scored two tries as Warrington edged a thrilling quarter-final against St Helens to keep alive their defence of the Challenge Cup.
A repeat of last year's Wembley final between Super League's form teams lived up to its billing as the holders held on for a 20-18 victory at Salford's AJ Bell Stadium to secure a 10th semi-final appearance in the last 12 years.
Saints played their full part in a thrill-a-minute contest and had a chance to take the tie into extra time when full-back Lachlan Coote missed a late conversion attempt from the touchline, leaving Warrington to join Salford and Leeds in the draw for the last four.
The platform for Warrington's victory was laid by a pack bolstered by the return of co-captains Chris Hill and Jack Hughes as well as Jason Clark, Joe Philbin and Matty Davis, who all missed the two previous games through Covid-19 track and trace protocols.
St Helens were boosted by the return of England centre Mark Percival and he was prominent in the opening try, providing the final pass for stand-off Jonny Lomax to touch down in the sixth minute.
Coote kicked the conversion and added a penalty in the 18th minute to stretch his side's lead to 8-0 and leave Saints looking good for the semis.
However, Percival's hamstring flared up once more and, when he was forced off midway through the first half, coach Kristian Woolf was forced to move James Bentley out of the pack and they also lost momentum when in-form prop Alex Walmsley went off for a breather.
Stand-off Blake Austin caused Saints problems with his pinpoint kicking in the swirling wind and the Wolves showed their danger when Jake Mamo, deputising on the wing for the suspended Tom Lineham, crossed in the 15th minute only to have the try disallowed for a forward pass.
The game was then turned on its head as Warrington hit a purple patch with three tries in 11 minutes just before the break.
Centre Anthony Gelling out-jumped Regan Grace to touch down Austin's high kick and then beat three defenders before releasing Charnley, who wrong-footed the cover for his first try.
Stefan Ratchford's conversion nudged his side into the lead for the first time and Warrington struck again on the stroke of half-time when Toby King accelerated out of dummy half and Mamo sent pacy full-back Matty Ashton racing 70 metres for a glorious try.
That made it 16-8 and Saints missed a brilliant chance to get back into it early in the second half when Grace lost control of the ball in Austin's tackle as he attempted an acrobatic finish at the corner.
Grace made amends five minutes later, however, producing a brilliant finish after quick hands from Theo Fages and Bentley had given him a glimpse of the line.
Coote's touchline conversion reduced the deficit to just two points and set up a tense final quarter.
Warrington scored again in fortuitous fashion when Hughes' pass bounced forward off the head of Gelling, totally bamboozling the Saints defence and landing in the grateful arms of Charnley for his second try.
That made it 20-14 but Saints had a chance to send the tie into extra time when winger Kevin Naiqama finished brilliantly at the corner for their third try with 10 minutes to go but Coote was unable to add the conversion.