St Helens 36
Tries: Swift, Percival (2), Dawson, Amor, Turner
Goals: Percival 6/8
Widnes Vikings 20
Tries: Mellor, Craven, Ah Van, Dean
Goals: Craven 1/2, Ah Van 1/2
St Helens booked their place in the Challnege Cup semi-finals with a 36-20 victory over a spirited Widnes Vikings at Langtree Park.
The 12-time cup winners will now face Leeds Rhinos in the last four.
Stand-in full-back Mark Percival notched up 20 points as Saints beat the Vikings for the third time this season.
Both sets of players made a guard of honour for recently retired Saints full-back Paul Wellens, who also received a presentation from the club before kick off.
Adam Swift put the home side in front with a tremendous solo try. The winger collected a Kevin Brown kick 10 metres from his own line and raced away past some lacklustre Widnes tacklers to put Saints ahead.
Things got worse for the visitors as Stefan Marsh was forced off the field with concussion after making a tackle on Swift on the 14 minute mark.
The seven-time cup winners drew level soon after through Joe Mellor’s try. The scrum-half’s touch down came on the back of a penalty against Saints’ James Roby for interference and after Widnes had got within range of the try line, Mellor forced his way over on his hands and knees to even the tie up.
Saints elected to kick for goal on 21 minutes after Willie Isa was harshly adjudged to have committed a flop – Percival edged the hosts back in front from nearly 40 metres out.
Keiron Cunningham’s men were making life hard for themselves with a low completion rate but they did extend their lead thanks to Percival’s first try of the afternoon. A Mose Masoe offload in his own half set a quick passing move away, it culminated with Jordan Turner breaking the defensive line and passing to Swift, who gave the ball to the supporting Percival who had the legs to score.
In trying to affect the tackle on Masoe, Kevin Brown injured his ankle but valiantly hobbled on through the rest of the game, though he clearly wasn’t 100%.
Five minutes later Saints were in again; Matty Dawson strolling in on the right hand side after the Vikings had scrambled across to the left on the previous tackle to deny the reigning Super League champions.
Danny Craven crossed just before the break to bring Denis Betts’ men back into the game. A Gil Dudson pass put Hep Cahill through a gap and after the returning loose forward had played the ball following being tackled, Brown shifted the ball right and Craven fought his way over to reduce the deficit to six points.
Widnes dominated the early exchanges of the second half too, taking the lead through Patrick Ah Van and Chris Dean tries.
Dudson was again involved in setting up the Kiwi winger’s score, getting his side to within 10 metres of the Saints line with a break through the middle. Brown’s pass to the touchline found Ah Van to cross in the corner, although it did appear to travel forward.
When former Saint Dean got the ball down under pressure from Jon Wilkin and Dawson Widnes led 20-18.
That lead lasted for only 11 minutes, though, as Kyle Amor powered his way over to score next to the posts. Paddy Flynn and Craven were harshly adjudged to have stripped the ball from Turner, which laid the platform for the prop’s try.
The intensity that they had showed began to take its toll on Widnes and Saints put two scores between the two sides with eight minutes remaining. A superb pass from dummy-half Roby found Wilkin, he helped the ball on to Turner, who shook off Mellor’s attempted tackle and made the score 28-20.
A sensational kick chase from Joe Greenwood and Josh Jones trapped Rhys Hanbury in goal and the subsequent dropout failed to go the required 10 metres, offering Percival a chance to extend the lead further with the boot, which he duly did.
And Saints’ sixth different full-back of the season crossed for his second try on the hooter to seal a hard earned win for his side.
St Helens will now face holders Leeds Rhinos on either Friday 31st July or Saturday 1st August for a place at Wembley.
Warrington Wolves will face Hull KR in the other semi-final.
Man of the Match – Mark Percival – Slotted into the full-back role brilliantly, looked confident in defence and despite leaving the field for concussion checks in the second half, still racked up an impressive 20 points for Saints.