St Helens retain Super League title

St Helens celebrate Jack Welsby's late try that won the Super League grand final.
St Helens celebrate Jack Welsby's late try that won the Super League grand final.

St Helens scored a dramatic try after the final hooter to beat fierce rivals Wigan 8-4 in Super League's grand final and retain the British top-flight title on Friday.

The lowest-scoring final in Super League history had a scarcely believable ending, with Saints' Tommy Makinson attempting a long-range drop goal as the clock ticked past 80 minutes.

The ball struck the upright, bounced down and the second bounce kicked left to allow Jack Welsby - narrowly onside as he followed up the kick - to beat Wigan's Australian star Bevan French to the ball to ground.

Wigan players sank to their knees as St Helens celebrated a 15th league title, going back to back for the first time in 20 years.

Trailing 2-0 at halftime to ex-Penrith Panthers star Lachlan Coote's goal at an empty KCOM Stadium in Hull, Wigan scored their first points when Jake Bibby went over in the right corner in the 65th minute.

The conversion struck the bar but Coote successfully kicked another penalty to lock the scores at 4-4.

Wigan missed another chance to add two points when Zak Hardaker's penalty kick from just inside St Helens' half fell narrowly short and wide.

Saints immediately went down the other end and snatched victory in the most cruel of ways as far as Wigan were concerned.

Wigan, whose captain Sean O'Loughlin was playing the final game of his distinguished 19-year professional career, was looking for a third Super League title in five years, and a record-extending 23rd overall.

"It was unbelievable to be part of but it's a shame how it ended," O'Loughlin said. "It's gutting but that's sport."

Instead it was the perfect send-off for retiring St Helens prop and former NRL Bulldogs star James Graham.

"You couldn't have scripted this," Graham said. "I'm genuinely moved."

Australian Associated Press