St Helens ended Justin Holbrook’s era at the club by finally lifting major silverware, winning the Grand Final thanks to a 23-6 win over Salford.
The Saints, the competition’s outstanding side for two seasons, had come up painfully short when it mattered before this night at Old Trafford, losing in three semi-finals and one final.
But at the fifth time of asking, they got the job done, and in doing so, ensured they will be compared to the great sides of the Super League era after dazzling under the Australian since his arrival midway through 2017.
Holbrook leaves the club to join NRL side Gold Coast Titans next year, but leaves a legacy that now includes the club’s sixth Grand Final trophy.
They were made to work for it by a determined Salford side, who defended astutely and frequently threatened with the ball on their first ever appearance at the showpiece event.
But eventually, Saints prevailed. Their speed, a trademark feature of the team, eventually saw them crack the Red Devils.
It took 15 minutes for Saints to open the scoring as Morgan Knowles raced to the line from Alex Walmsley’s deft pass.
Nine minutes later, Saints went in through Zeb Taia, who burrowed over from James Roby’s delightful reverse pass.
Salford had spent the majority of the opening quarter on the back foot but eventually worked their way into the game.
After Tui Lolohea had a try ruled out for obstruction, Jake Bibby scored the club’s first ever try in a Grand Final from Jackson Hasting’s pass, leaving Saints just 12-6 ahead at half-time.
But Saints powered home in the second-half. Salford, who will feel they were on the wrong side of key decisions from referee Chris Kendall, found themselves rarely in Saints territory.
A moment of magic from Mark Percival, who superbly raced onto his own grubber kick to score under the sticks, put Holbrook’s men in control, and two Lachlan Coote penalties, along with a Tommy Makinson drop goal, ensured it would by St Helens who left the Theatre of Dreams triumphant, and Salford’s fairy tale ended, but certainly not forgotten.
Saints: Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, Thompson, Taia, Peyroux, Knowles. Subs: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Ashworth, Smith.
Red Devils: Evalds, Sio, Welham, Bibby, Inu, Lolohea, Hastings, Mossop, Tomkins, Dudson, Jones, Griffin, McCarthy. Subs: Lussick, Flanagan, Walker, Burke.