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SAINTS get their fax right; RUGBY LEAGUE: Challenge Cup semi-finals produce a Wembley derby.

ST HELENS 26 HALIFAX 2 ST HELENS coach Justin Holbrook heaped praise on Halifax, after they made his team toil for a 26-2 win in the Coral Challenge Cup semifinals.

Instead of cantering to their anticipated victory at Bolton, the runaway Super League leaders were pushed all the way by their part-time opponents before setting up a derby clash with Warrington at Wembley on August 24.

Leading only 8-2 at the break, James Roby-inspired Saints ran in three tries without reply in the second half to secure their 22nd final, but their first for 11 years.

"I'm really happy to win," Holbrook said. "The main thing with a semi-final is you've got to win it to get to Wembley and we've done that, so it's really pleasing.

"It's great that we've won the game, but it's good for competition over here to have a Championship team in the semi-finals and to play as well as they did was great.

"They tried hard for 80 minutes. We knew it was going to be a tough day, they're tricky games when everybody says you've won before you play.

"They were tough conditions with the constant drizzle, and we tried to play a bit too much in the first half, but we settled down in the second half and defensively we were terrific."

The scores were locked at 2-2 before skipper Roby broke the deadlock with the opening try five minutes before half-time - and the England hooker also had a hand in all three of Saints' second-half tries.

"It's great to have Robes back," Holbrook said. "We're a much better side when he's out there.

"I thought our outside backs did a great job, in particular Mark Percival, who I thought was the best on the field by a long way. Everything he did was great."

Victory made up for the disappointment of defeat to Catalans Dragons in last year's semi-finals, but most of the plaudits went to Halifax, a mid-table Championship team who rose superbly to the occasion.

Saints opened the scoring with a penalty which Halifax coach Simon Grix says demonstrated respect for his team.

"I thought that was really classy of Saints," Grix said. "It showed respect. It might have been a shot in the arm for our boys as well.

"I'm very proud of them, I said all week I didn't think we would be beaten for effort, and I don't think anyone could argue about that.

"Saints will all know they've been in a game when they wake up in the morning.

"It could have been a fairytale, but the likelihood was we were going to get beat. We never said it, but limiting it was the thing for us really.

"At 8-2, we were in the game and came up with a lot of errors as well.

"The effort was brilliant, I think they surprised themselves. Everyone was talking about 60 and 70 points.

"They've definitely earned a beer or two, and one or two of them will probably get a couple of days off work."

CAPTION(S):

|Tommy Makinson, of St Helens, celebrates after their Coral Challenge Cup semi-final victory over Halifax; while, below, Kyle Amor and Alex Walmsley, of St Helens, celebrate with a banner on the pitch Pictures: GEORGE WOOD/ GETTY IMAGES

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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jul 28, 2019
Words:548
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