Club World Challenge: Penrith Panthers 12-13 St Helens

St Helens lifts the World Club Challenge trophy
St Helens are the first Super League club to win the World Club Challenge since Wigan in 2017
Penrith Panthers (0) 12
Attempts: Tago, To’o Goals: clear 2
Saint Helena (10) 13
Attempts: Welsby, Hurrell Goals: Makinson, Percival Drop goal: dodd

St Helens defeated National Rugby League champions Penrith to become the first Super League team to win the World Club Challenge in Australia since 1994.

Lewis Dodd kicked the golden points overtime-winning drop-goal after the Panthers rallied from a 12-0 deficit.

Super League champions Saints led 10-0 at half-time thanks to a Jack Welsby try and a second from Konrad Hurrell.

Mark Percival scored a penalty but Penrith equalized with Izack Tago and Brian To’o’s last-gasp score.

The last club to do so was Wigan’s winning team of Jason Robinson, Martin Offiah and Denis Betts; when the league was a winter game, against Wayne Bennett’s star-studded Brisbane Broncos.

This was also the Saints’ first win since 2007, again against the Broncos at Bolton’s then Reebok Stadium.

Panthers struggle to match Saints’ intensity

Lewis Dodd kicks the winning drop goal
Lewis Dodd, who missed St Helens’ Grand Final victory over Leeds in September because of injury, kicked the winning drop goal in the World Club Challenge

Any doubts that the Saints, who have won the Super League four years in a row, could transfer that domestic dominance to a global stage, particularly away from home, proved to be utterly unfounded by the performance and outcome of this final clash.

In a way the score failed to represent the control that Santos showed in long periods, forcing errors with their speed of the line and causing headaches at the other end of the attack.

Their opponents Penrith had established their own superiority in the NRL with back to back Grand Final wins and had an abundance of world class stars such as Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo and Jarome Luai in their ranks.

Even so, St Helens started with an intensity the Panthers struggled to match, wrapping an insatiable defensive zeal around a brisk ruck game that opened up space for the attack.

Welsby were immense, scoring after the tireless James Roby and Jonny Lomax exploited one of those rucks to put Curtis Sironen in a hole and stop To’o from trying on the other end.

Alex Walmsley and Matty Lees, assisted by Agnatius Paasi and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook off the bench, continually scored yards against a deep defence.

It was this breakthrough that gave Hurrell the chance to try wide, a typical surge, and left Penrith two goals down.

Thunder and lightning delayed the start of the second half, which continued in much the same vein, although Penrith began to show more fluidity after an awkward start.

It took up to 10 minutes for them to finally breach the hosts, when Cleary’s shot bypassed the intense Saints defense to put on Izack Tago despite Welsby’s best efforts.

The Saints could have restored their buffer but for a pass from Welsby to be ruled out as Will Hopoate crossed into space wide, while defensively they were again magnificent as they struggled to stop full-back Stephen Crichton.

Both Lomax and Dodd missed drop-goal shots to finish it off in the 80 minutes as time went on, and it looked like Welsby’s perfect night would be ruined in the final minute with his fumble of a hopeful Crichton ‘Hail Mary’ kick gave to To’o a free run to score.

However, the history-making Saints still had more to give and, after Crichton hit inside their own half, they kept their cool as Dodd won a point, winning a pretty bruising and enthralling contest.

Penrith Panthers: Crichton; May, Tago, Turuva, To’o; Luai, Cleary; Leota, Kenny, Fisher-Harris, Garner, Hosking, Yeo.

Exchanges: Cogger, Eisenhuth, Leniu, Salmon, Smith.

Saint Helen: Welsby; Makinson, Hurrell, Percival, Hopoate; Lomax, Dodd; Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Mata’utia, Sironen, Knowles.

Exchanges: Lussick, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Paasi, Wingfield, Bell.

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