St Helens retains British rugby league title amid late drama
HULL, England (AP) — St. Helens scored a dramatic try after the final hooter to beat fierce rival Wigan 8-4 in Super League’s Grand Final and retain the British topflight 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 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 in an arm wrestle at an empty KCOM Stadium in Hull, Wigan scored its first points when Jake Bibby went over in the right corner in the 65th minute.
The conversion struck the bar, and 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 was 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 James Graham.
“You couldn’t have scripted this,” Graham said. “I’m genuinely moved.”
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports