St Helens 26 Halifax 2: Saints off to Wembley but 'Fax put on a great show

GUTSY Halifax did themselves - and the Championship game - proud with a fine effort against St Helens in today’s Coral Challenge Cup semi-final.

Halifax's Ste Tyrer denies Tommy Makinson. (Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

Granted, there is no dream Wembley finale for Simon Grix’s men - Saints face Warrington Wolves next month - but the way the charismatic part-timers applied themselves against the Super League leaders was something to behold.

The last time a second-tier team - Hull KR - reached the semi-finals stage in 2006, Saints, having hardly broken sweat, thrashed them 50-0.

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But from an early stage today, it was quite clear the same would not happen to this determined Halifax side.

Halifax captain Scott Murrell whips up his side. (Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

It took Saints, brimming with internationals and 10 points clear at the top of Super League, fully 37 minutes to break them for the first time and they only led 8-2 at the break.

Halifax, well-organised in defence and showing plenty of punch, more than matched their illustrious opponents and, in Scott Murrell, had someone able to kick them clear of trouble whenever needed.

They were able to force errors and left Saints clearly rattled at times in the driving rain.

England full-back Jonny Lomax has rarely looked as harassed as he did in the first half while international colleague Alex Walmsley and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook both spilled under pressure when going for the tryline.

St Helens's Kevin Naiqama, Alex Walmsley & Joseph Paulo wrap up Halifax's Adam Tangata. (Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

Every time ‘Fax forced an error, they celebrated like they had scored themselves and they clearly enjoyed the occasion.

It was obvious from the game’s actual start, when Scott Grix’s short kick-off was claimed by a flying Shaun Robinson, that they would not die wondering.

They may lie eight in the Championship with just one win in seven games but you would never have realised.

Saints, perhaps knowing they would be in a fight, kicked a fourth minute penalty via Danny Richardson but that was cancelled out by ex-Saints player Ste Tyrer in the 13th minute.

Tyrer then came up with a magnificent tackle to deny Golden Boot winner Tommy Makinson a try in the corner and it needed all of Roby’s experience to finally get over them, the England hooker dummying close to the line for Richardson to improve.

Saints, understandably, applied more pressure in the second period, Dominique Peyroux crossing in the 48th minute but even then there was claims he had dropped the ball after more desperate defence.

Lomax finally found some space to slice over just after the hour mark before Theo Fages latched onto Roby’s grubber, Richardson maintaining his 100 per cent record with the boot to see them to Wembley to face Warrington Wolves.

St Helens: Lomax; Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace; Fages, Richardson; Walmsley, Roby, Thompson, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Peyroux, Paulo. Substitutes: Amor, Lees, Ainsworth, Bentley.

Halifax: Grix; Sharp, Saltonstall, Tyrer, Robinson; Murrell, Johnston; Tangata, Moore, Kavanagh, Butler, Barber, Fairbank. Substitutes: Kaye, Morris, Fleming, Larroyer.

Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield)