IF any game deserved a sell-out crowd and a red-hot atmosphere, it was this one.

It had all the ingredients for a barnstormer – two sides unbeaten since the restart, leading pair in the league and more importantly for the romantics, a repeat of last year’s final.

The fact it was played at a near-empty AJ Bell Stadium is a tragedy, but they are the times we live in and thankfully from a Warrington perspective, The Wire were able to put smiles on the faces of fans watching from afar again.

Like the Wembley final 13 months previous and the Super League clash in February – both of which feel a complete lifetime away given all that has happened since – Steve Price’s side once again proved to be St Helens’ kryptonite.

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They had been in danger of wasting a first half they largely controlled, with penalties and “six agains” giving them plenty of looks at the Saints line.

A harsh-looking forward pass call denied Jake Mamo the try another excellent performance deserved while Lachlan Coote came up with two try-saving interventions to deny both Toby King and Matty Ashton but for the most part, Wolves were a touch wasteful as they tried to claw back an 8-0 deficit.

Warrington Guardian:

Jake Mamo dives over for a try that was ruled out for a forward pass. Picture by Mike Boden

Then, however, a switch flicked.

Their purple-patch of three tries in the final 10 minutes of the half left their rivals shellshocked, all of them well-crafted and catching Saints completely unaware.

If anything, half time came at the wrong time given how much Warrington had their opponents on the ropes.

A fightback was to be expected and it duly came, but the response to it was all-important.

When Saints got back to within two points following Regan Grace’s try, Matty Ashton put down a high bomb on his own line – perhaps the only mistake the young full-back made on yet another glowing afternoon for him.

Warrington Guardian:

Matty Ashton gallops home for a try right on the half-time hooter. Picture by Mike Boden

However, what was impressive is that neither Ashton nor his teammates let that dent their confidence and composure.

It would have been easy to buckle under the pressure of a team that has been close to unstoppable over the past two-and-a-half seasons, but they remained calm and once again showed the grit and defensive aptitude that has underpinned their recent success.

> VIDEO: Price delights at 'gritty' Wire defence

Warrington Guardian:

James Graham is carted back by a combination of Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper and Ben Currie. Picture by Mike Boden

With a try and two assists for Josh Charnley – even if one was slightly fortuitous as an errant pass looped off his head and into the winger’s grateful hands – Anthony Gelling had his best game in primrose and blue.

At a time in which competition for places in the back line is at its peak given the recent form of Mamo and Ashton coupled with the impending return of Gareth Widdop, the centre certainly stuck his hand up here.

As important as the tries were the off-the-ball efforts, most notably Blake Austin’s sensational try-saving tackle to deny Regan Grace in the corner that had shades of Bryson Goodwin’s similar effort on Tommy Makinson at Wembley last year.

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Saints could point to losing two of their backs during the game – something not many can legislate for – but there can be no doubt the better side won on the day.

Another huge step forward for a group that seems to be brimming with confidence and enjoying every minute of being out there.

Warrington Guardian:

Josh Charnley touches down for his second try. Picture by Mike Boden


. Wire stretch their winning run in all competitions to eight matches.

. Warrington’s sixth victory in 20 Challenge Cup ties against St Helens.

. Steve Price has lost only one of his 10 Challenge Cup games in charge of Wolves

> Everything Steve Price said in a stinging attack on try celebration fines


Challenge Cup, quarter final

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Warrington Wolves...20 St Helens...18

Wolves: Matty Ashton; Josh Charnley, Anthony Gelling, Toby King, Jake Mamo; Blake Austin, Stefan Ratchford; Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Jack Hughes, Ben Currie, Jason Clark. Subs: Joe Philbin, Matt Davis, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Danny Walker

Saints: Lachlan Coote; Jack Welsby, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Regan Grace; Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages; Alex Walmsley, James Roby, James Graham, James Bentley, Zeb Taia, Morgan Knowles. Subs: Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Matty Lees, Kyle Amor, Aaron Smith

Scoring: Lomax try, 7mins, Coote goal, 0-6; Coote penalty, 19mins, 0-8; Gelling try, 30mins, 4-8; Charnley try, 37mins, Ratchford goal, 10-8; Ashton try, 39mins, Ratchford goal, 16-8; Grace try, 57mins, Coote goal, 16-14; Charnley try, 64mins, 20-14; Naiqama try, 72mins, 20-18

Penalties: Wolves 6 Saints 3

Referee: Chris Kendall