Penrith Panthers  12
St. Helens  13
DATE
COMPETITION
VENUEATTENDANCE(HT)
18th Feb 2023
World Club Challenge Final
AWAY
13837
(HT:0:10)
MATCH NOTES : The Saints pull off a fantastic performance to become World Club Champions for the third time in their history.

Due to the inclement weather conditions, the teams agreed to field an extra substitute. James Bell was the 18th man for the Saints. The match was played in the climatic context of torrential rain, thunder and lightning.

1 - Jack Welsby
AGE AT TIME OF MATCH 21

TRIES
1
WINNING HONOURS
2020 SLGF 2021 RLCCF 2021 SLGF
2022 SLGF 2023 WCC

3 - Konrad Hurrell
AGE AT TIME OF MATCH 31

TRIES
1
WINNING HONOURS
2022 SLGF 2023 WCC

5 - Will Hopoate
AGE AT TIME OF MATCH 30

WINNING HONOURS
2022 SLGF 2023 WCC

7 - Lewis Dodd
AGE AT TIME OF MATCH 21

DROP GOALS
1
WINNING HONOURS
2021 SLGF 2023 WCC

11 - Sione Matautia
AGE AT TIME OF MATCH 26

WINNING HONOURS
2021 SLGF 2022 SLGF 2023 WCC

12 - Curtis Sironen
AGE AT TIME OF MATCH 29

WINNING HONOURS
2022 SLGF 2023 WCC

14 - Joey Lussick
AGE AT TIME OF MATCH 27

WINNING HONOURS
2022 SLGF 2023 WCC

16 - Iggy Paasi
AGE AT TIME OF MATCH 31

WINNING HONOURS
2021 RLCCF 2021 SLGF 2022 SLGF
2023 WCC

17 - Jake Wingfield
AGE AT TIME OF MATCH 21

WINNING HONOURS
2022 SLGF 2023 WCC

18 - James Bell
AGE AT TIME OF MATCH 28

WINNING HONOURS
2023 WCC

Age in brackets is at time of match - Total average age for this team is 0 - ** non-playing sub


COACH : Paul Wellens


(2022-10-05 : 2023-12-31 )


MATCH VIDEO

MATCH REPORT


MATCH REPORT : Match Report and Analysis by the critically acclaimed, Stephen Orford.

Sometimes it’s a pleasure to be wrong.

Regular visitors my website would have seen in my preview of the World Club Challenge that I feared the worst. Having seen the squads, weighed up the relative strengths of each, considered the location of the match and the gulf that still exists between the NRL and Super League, I concluded that it would be a success for Saints if they could stay within two scores of the Penrith Panthers on their own patch. It was a lack of faith and ambition that would make the Everton board of directors blush.

Saints 13-12 golden point victory over the back-to-back NRL premiers gave them their third world title and their first on Australian soil. They are only the second English club to win the title down under after Wigan defeated Brisbane Broncos all the way back in 1994. And it was no fluke. It was among the better performances from a Saints side arguably in history. A perfect blend of enterprising rugby league in attack – without veering towards the recklessness that the likes of me would happily watch without having to win trophies – and solid, dominant defence. In his first competitive game in charge of his home town club – the club he represented with such distinction for 17 years – Paul Wellens led his side to a world championship and rugby league immortality.

Saints made only two changes from the side which had beaten St George-Illawarra Dragons in somewhat less impressive circumstances a week ago. England international back rower Joe Batchelor was unfortunate to get injured in that clash. He will be monitored in the coming days and weeks to determine when he can return to action but for this one his place in the side went to former Manly Sea Eagle Curtis Sironen. The other change saw Morgan Knowles return from the illness that kept him out of the Dragons game. He replaced James Bell at loose forward although the Scottish international would still see some action with both sides able to name 18 players.

There had been much talk in the build-up about the weather and how it would affect Saints. We are just past the peak of the Australian summer and temperatures are extremely high compared to what those of us on this rainy little island are used to. However, when kick-off came around it was not extreme heat but torrential rain and the threat of severe lightning which provided the biggest meteorological headache for the players. So severe were the bolts of lightning around Penrith’s Blue Bet Stadium that the half-time break was extended to 20 minutes on safety grounds.

That came after a first 40 minutes for the ages from Saints. They were dominant in the first 20 minutes against a Panthers side containing 11 of the 17 players who featured in their NRL Grand Final victory over South Sydney Rabbitohs in September. Three of that squad have moved on to other clubs while another three are out injured. Make no mistake about it, this was about as strong a side as Panthers coach Ivan Cleary could have fielded. For Saints, Batchelor and Jon Bennison were the only members of the 17 who played in their Grand Final win over Leeds Rhinos to miss out here.

Saints started quickly, testing the Panthers defence almost from the first whistle. Lewis Dodd was playing in his first competitive game since his 2022 season was ruined by injury during the Good Friday derby back in April, He showed throughout why there is so much excitement in St Helens and beyond about his talents. He would end the night a hero, etched into folklore. His first contribution was to force opposite number and much feared Australian World Cup-winning halfback Nathan Cleary into throwing a desperate boot at a grubber close to the Panthers line.

It looped out of play giving Saints another set. That ended with James Roby having his attempted dab towards the in-goal smothered by the defence. Yet Saints had served notice. They were not in town just to enjoy some winter sun, take their beating and go home like far too many English club and international sides before them.

That early scare sprung the Panthers into action. Good handling from Jarome Luai and Izack Tago got Taylan May away down the left. Just when it looked like he was down the winger jumped back up untouched, making 50 metres before Will Hopoate put an end to the threat. He was able to effect a brilliant pick-up to snuff out the danger as he moved forward on to a searching grubber from Cleary.

It seemed like Welsby was involved in everything for much of the night. After slowing down May’s progress in that attack he turned up on the opposite wing moments later to push metre-eating Samoan superstar Brian To’o into touch before he could sneak in at the corner. Welsby’s challenge may have been a bit high but there was no call from former Super League referee and occasional Dali Bar patron Ashley Klein. There is a joke in there about desperate boots and Dali Bar but That Saints Blog is above such things. Anyway, is Dali Bar still a thing?

Back to the rugby, where Welsby then switched his focus to attack as Saints opened the scoring in spectacular style. Roby emerged from dummy half deep in his own territory before handing on to Lomax. The stand-off drew the attention of the defence and slipped it out to Curtis Sironen who burst through the gap. The former Manly back rower kept his composure and - spotting Welsby supporting on his inside - released the pass just in time to avoid throwing it forward. Once Welsby received the pass the sound of the gate shutting was almost audible. He streaked over with the exuberance of youth, finding time to celebrate the try long before he had dotted it down. Eight minutes in and with Tommy Makinson’s conversion Saints led 6-0.

I’m not sure if it is a sign of things to come or something which Wellens came up with just for this game but Roby played long minutes in this one. Understudy Joey Lussick was left on the bench for the first 70 minutes as the 37 year-old Saints skipper just kept going and going. Roby even returned when the game went into its extra period. It will be interesting to see if Wellens leaves his former team-mate out there for as long in big, close games throughout the season or whether he will revert to the more careful approach favoured by Kristian Woolf.

Following his try Welsby had to be at his best defensively once more as the Panthers enjoyed the kind of spell you’d expect from the NRL’s finest. Alex Walmsley - who to that point had been a standout for Saints - came up with an error as he played the ball. A creaking Saints defence gave up two set restarts in quick succession before Cleary found space close to the line. He burrowed low in an attempt to slide over but he reckoned without the possessed determination of Welsby.

The fullback met Cleary just in time to bring him down short of the line. Still Cleary attempted to reach out and force the ball but he was thwarted by the efforts of Knowles just doing Knowles things. The loose forward excels at doing the dirty, painful jobs that nobody else really wants to. That appetite for hard yakka was in evidence here as he desperately grappled with Cleary and managed to punch the ball from his grasp.

A few minutes later Saints were able to stretch the lead. A mistake by Luke Garner - newly arrived from Wests Tigers to step into the shoes of back rower Viliame Kikau - gave Saints possession 30 metres out. In the ensuing set they went right through Welsby to Konrad Hurrell who sliced between Isaah Yeo and May with embarrassing ease. Hurrell touched down for Saints second try of the night. Although on this occasion it couldn’t be improved by Makinson Saints nevertheless found themselves with a double digit lead barely 15 minutes into the contest. I am sure I wasn’t the only one who had not seen this coming at this stage.

Welsby carved out another half chance soon after but his pass to Percival proved to be just about the only thing that was too hot to handle for the centre on the night. It was perfectly timed by Welsby but had just a little bit too much sauce on it for Percival to gather. Had he done so he would have been through a gap close to the line and surely in for a score which could have potentially killed off Penrith hopes with an hour left to play.

Instead a Hopoate error gifted the Panthers an opportunity soon after. Although Saints’ defence held out brilliantly as they did for most of the night, they paid a price for their efforts. Makinson put in a typically enthusiastic shot on Tago but suffered a head injury in the process. Despite his furious remonstrations with the medical staff the England winger was off for a head injury assessment (HIA) from which he would not return and which will - given the 11-day rule around concussion protocols - keep him out of Saints Super League opener at Castleford which took place on Sunday, February 26th.

The pressure from the Panthers intensified. Dodd was forced to concede a goal-line dropout, executing a perfect half volley into the fans behind the posts to avert the danger from another testing Cleary kick. It was Welsby who covered the next one before he came up with another big defensive effort to stop May. The Panthers winger made huge ground down the left touchline but Welsby was there to slow him down before Lomax finished him off.

May left the scene just after the half hour mark. He will now miss the whole of the NRL season to come after suffering an ACL injury. At almost the same time Panthers h