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Wembley Stadium, 25 August

Catalans Dragons 8-30 St Helens


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By Rob Hodgetts


80 mins: It's all over as Saints end up convincing winners despite the defeat to Catalans in Perpignan a few weeks ago.

Paul Wellens and Leon Pryce are jointly awarded the Lance Todd Trophy for man of the match.

"The missed tackles were the difference. The pace and power just told in the end. When the Catalans had the opportunity to go in front, they didn't take it and Saints came back and powered on."
BBC Sport's Jonathan Davies at Wembley.

"We always talk about how good Saints are with the ball but they're pretty good without it. I thought there were some really good, industrious efforts from the Catalans but it just wasn't good enough."
Wigan coach Brian Noble on BBC Sport.

"It's very disappointing to lose in a final. We were just beaten by probably the best club team in the world. They're just experienced at these sort of games and it just wasn't our day. A couple of things didn't go our way - the try before half-time killed us and then the one after got us again. We got tired and dropped off tackles."
Catalans skipper Stacey Jones.

78 mins: TRY Catalans 8-30 St Helens
Saints seal the coffin with superglue and then tape it up for good measure as Ade Gardner gets on the end of a great flowing move to score. Sean Long adds the goal.

76 mins: A bit of biffo breaks out as Jason Croker upends a Saints player. Storm in a tea cup, though, and they get on with the game.

75 mins: St Helens emerge from a flat period of their own and try-scorer James Roby nearly breaks through. The Dragons know the game is up but they keep pressing, and have gone 25 minutes without conceding.

72 mins: "Why don't thay get rid of the 'scrum'? It's pointless. Why not just hand the ball over?"
Roy Price, Yorkshire via text.

"Anyone else noticed St Helens coach Daniel Anderson resembles Robert Palmer, the rock star?"
Margaret, Toby's mum, Dewsbury via text.

69 mins: Catalans have not given up yet and winger Justin Murphy goes close again, only to run out of touch-in-goal as he dives for the ball.

The crowd attendance is given as 84,241. That means there are a few seats left, despite claims it was a sell-out.

67 mins: GOAL Catalans 8-24 St Helens
Sean Long stretches the Saints lead further with a penalty goal.

"Saying about Saints' try being a forward pass, you should take a good look at the Catalans' first try - it was a good couple of yards forward."
Alan McKnight in Cumbria via text.

65 mins: Ade Gardner pins his ears back and sets sail for the French line but is dragged down just inside the Catalans' half.

62 mins: The Dragons are giving themselves chances but they are too often hesitant or drop the vital pass when a score could be on.

"Just one question, why was the French national anthem not played before the game, I think that was a missed opportunity."
John Gilman, Leigh, Lancs. via text.

59 mins: The try has definitely rejuvenated the Dragons and they press again with Stacey Jones trying to thread through Justin Murphy with a delicate little grubber kick.

56 mins: TRY Catalans 8-22 St Helens
One Dragon who is not tired yet is Justin Murphy who latches onto a wayward St Helens pass aimed behind Lee Gilmour and thunders 50 yards down the right touchline to score. Stacey Jones misses the goal.

54 mins: The Dragons are showing signs of fatigue and their vigour of the first 20 minutes is definitely missing.

50 mins: TRY Catalans 4-22 St Helens
Paul Clough crashes over in the right corner after a good, quick offload in the tackle from Leon Pryce. Sean Long's break set it all up and Saints now sense those floodgates creaking into action. Long misses the goal.

48 mins: Saints are playing more and more on the front foot and look far more likely to score again than do Catalans.

46 mins: TRY Catalans 4-18 St Helens
Saints pin the Dragons in their own half on the Catalans's set of six and the English side strike again after a mix-up in defence from a kick-through gives Paul Wellens an easy score under the posts.

43 mins: Staunch defence again from the Dragons as Saints press hard early in the second half. Paul Wellens bullocks his way to within feet of the line but the "Sang et Or" (blood and gold) stand firm.

41 mins: Catalans kick off the second-half into the shadowy end of Wembley Stadium.

Half-time: "It's got to be one of the longest periods with no score. Shame about the try at the end of time. It will be interesting to see how the Catalans get on with fitness in the second half. That last 15 minutes is going to be a big teller. It could be a big runaway lead by St Helens."
Olympic rowing great Sir Steve Redgrave on BBC Sport.

"Catalans are still very much in it. What they need to do is come out and compete with St Helens up front and you never know what can happen in the last 15 minutes."
BBC Sport's Robbie Paul.

"The Catalans are getting some good value around the ruck area. If I was Stacey Jones I'd look to kick some lines. "
Aussie superstar Darren Lockyer on BBC Sport.

40 mins: TRY Catalans 4-12 St Helens
Saints hit back hard with a try from Ade Gardner in the right corner after good work down the line. The final pass from Matt Gidley was very forward-looking, prompting boos from the Dragons fans and the neutrals. But Sean Long is allowed to kick the conversion and the Saints go in 12-4 up.

35 mins: TRY Catalans 4-6 St Helens
That's put the Catalans among the pigeons. A comedy of errors from Saints gives Catalans the ball deep in St Helens territory. The ball is moved left and a couple of miss-passes put Younes Khattabi over in the left corner. Stacey Jones leaves his kick wide of the right post.

33 mins TRY Catalans 0-6 St Helens:
James Roby breaks the deadlock with a stunning solo effort. He breaks five tackles in a jinking 40-yard run to dive over, with Sean Long adding the extras. The Dragons's defence has been so solid up until now but inexplicably they just let Roby ghost through. They can't afford to concede again before the break.

31 mins: "The temperature on the pitch is 28C - that's 82F in old money. That weather's a bit more South of France than it is East of Liverpool."
BBC Sport's Julian Shea at Wembley.

29 mins: Saints are building a head of steam and are getting closer by the minute. James Graham is stopped yards short before Leon Pryce is once again deprived as he dives for the line.

27 mins: The Saints win a promising set of six tackles after a Catalans knock-on in their own half. On the last tackle, Leon Pryce lunges for the line but he is stopped just short and the Dragons once again break out.

25 mins: St Helens surge back upfield but the scoring pass goes to ground in the right corner and the Catalans breathe easy again.

23 mins: Catalans fans are in raptures - briefly. Jason Croker dives majestically into the air to retrieve a chip-through under the posts and claims the try. But his left hand is over the try line and there is also the suspicion that he dropped it, and the video referee says 'no try'.

22 mins: Francis Meli makes the first clean break as he counters from a kick deep into Saints's half from Adam Mogg. He makes about 15 yards before he is hunted down.

21 mins: Saints sub Maurie Fa'asavalu bludgeons his way past three for four Catalans players before he is unceremoniously dumped into touch. He's a big lad, though, and could be a danger.

19 mins: Saints go agonisingly close in the right corner but Matt Gidley is piled backwards as he lunges for the line.

17 mins: "Sean Long's been stuck with Matt Gidley a couple of times and if Stacey Jones can spot it, the Dragons could cause some problems for St Helens."
BBC Sport's Joe Lydon.

15 mins: A couple of times Catalans have attacked and the man straightening up the run has dropped the ball. Saints's defence is very flat but the Dragons will need to keep hold of the pill better than they are doing.

14 mins: Saints give away a fifth penalty when Stacey Jones is tugged back by Matt Gidley. Will this indiscipline cost them later on?

12 mins: Catalans have made a good start in keeping the lid on the Saints and it's fairly even stuff at the moment as they soften each other up in the initial exchanges. Expect to see Stacey Jones and Sean Long rise in influence as the game wears on.

10 mins: Saints' Sean Long is almost through but fails to find his support. A couple of tackles later, Leon Pryce hoists another high one but Francis Meli opts to fell Catalans's Clint Greenshields instead of trying to catch the ball.

9 mins: Saints full-back Paul Wellens is again under pressure after a Catalans kick-through but he gathers well before the attacker is ruled offside.

8 mins: Stacey Jones hoists a high ball over the waiting Paul Wellens but fortunately for the Saints man, the chase is not well co-ordinated and the ball drops in the shade not the sunlight, making for an easy catch.

6 mins: Catalans press and Jason Croker makes a half-break before Saints clear their lines deep into the French half.

4 mins: Indiscipline from Catalans hands Saints the advantage and they threaten through Ade Gardner on the right before Leon Pryce also goes close. A Sean Long cross-kick just misses the chasing hands of Paul Wellens in the left and Catalans are let off the hook.

2 mins: Saints look to exploit the right hand side but Adam Mogg pumps a kick deep into opposition territory to set up Catalans' first attacking platform.

1 min: Saints kick off into the shadowy end of Wembley.

1502: The band of the Royal Marines belts out the national anthem, there's more cheers and some announcements and then the hangers-on clear the pitch. It's action time.

1457: The two teams emerge into a shaft of Wembley sunshine, walking solemnly behind their coaches to line up. Olympic great Sir Steve Redgrave is presented to the players. Can't help thinking a few of the Saints lads will give it an extra firm squeeze of the hand, just to try to impress the big man.

1455: The Wembley crowd join in with the London Welsh Male Voice Choir for the traditional rendition of "Abide With Me".

1450: "There's no different pressure on us to the Catalans. It's still a big game, still a trophy final and I guess we're both nervous and excited at the same time.
Saints coach Daniel Anderson.

"The occasion is fantastic and I hope everyone enjoys the day, but focusing on the game is important for our players. Just staying with Saints for the first 20 minutes is vital for our chances. In their own way, all our players have played in some big occasions, so if they can just focus on the green stuff, not the red stuff around them, they'll go all right."
Catalans Dragons coach Mick Potter.

1445: "I'm very excited, fairly nervous, but it looks beautiful."
Catalans Dragons playmaker Stacey Jones speaking to BBC Sport's Robbie Paul pitchside at Wembley.

1440: "I'm pretty envious of the guys who will be playing out there today. It's a great stadium and a great occasion."
Aussie superstar Darren Lockyer on BBC Sport.

1425: "As expected, St Helens name a full strength team, captained by Keiron Cunningham, who was part of St Helens' 1997 Cup-winning side at the old Wembley. For the Dragons, prop Mathieu Griffi misses out, with his place going to Jerome Guisset. Younes Khattabi has shaken off a minor injury worry to be fit to start on the wing.

"Wembley is filling up in the sunshine, the Royal Marines band are playing on the pitch and the London Welsh Male Voice Choir are standing by to lead the singing. Not long to go now, and the atmosphere is really building."
BBC Sport's Julian Shea at Wembley.

1410: "As well as the usual Super League jerseys there are lots of people in berets, striped tops and comic moustaches. I've also seen a couple in medieval costume with a banner saying 'The Dragon Slayers' and someone dressed as Andy Pipkin from Little Britain, minus the wheelchair!"
BBC Sport's Elizabeth Hudson at Wembley

1345: "The pre-match schools game is often a way of spotting talent for the future - St Helens' James Roby and James Graham have both played in it in years gone by.

"So maybe Luke Metcalfe of Castleford High School could be a name to look out for in the future. He made a little piece of history by being the scorer of the first try at the new Wembley, and then followed it up with a 70-metre solo effort for the stadium's second try. Remember that name, you may hear it again."
BBC Sport's Julian Shea at Wembley.

1335: "Bonjour Rob! Lots of onions and berets being worn by all non Saints fans! Great atmosphere and weather."
Chris Russell at Wembley via text.

1327: Pretty quiet on the text and 606 front so far. Are you all in the pub? Don't your mobiles work in there?! Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing who can rise to the big-game stage and really boss it - Stacey Jones or Sean Long. My money's on the Kiwi.

1310: "Like they said in Hull when both our teams played each other in 1980. After everyone had set out for Wembley: last one out. don't forget to turn the lights out. Lets hope we get a match worthy of being the 'first RL' game back at Wembley."
Fcterry on 606.

1245: Anyone hear league legend and now Wasps assistant coach Shaun Edwards talking on 5live this morning? He said this St Helens side could go on to become the 'greatest league team ever'. Presumably he meant in this country, rather than in Aus, but that's a big claim from a man who played in every one of Wigan's eight consecutive Challenge Cup wins, no mean feat in itself.

1230: "After an unremittingly gloomy summer, the sun has finally come out for Cup final day. There is not a cloud in the sky above Wembley and conditions look perfect. It's an awesome stadium, just staggering.

"St Helens fans are predictably here in their thousands but plenty of other people are Frenchmen for the day. They call themselves 'Catalanglais'."
BBC Sport's Julian Shea at Wembley.

After a seven-year nomadic existence, taking in Twickenham, Murrayfield and the Millennium Stadium, the Challenge Cup final returns to its spiritual home of Wembley.

St Helens are red-hot favourites with the bookmakers to win their 11th Challenge Cup, but the holders will need no reminding that the Dragons powered to a 21-0 win over them just two weeks ago.

Catalans Dragons: Greenshields; Murphy, Wilson, Raguin, Khattabi; Mogg, Jones (capt); Chan, Quigley, Guisset, Gossard, Croker, Mounis. Subs: Ferriol, Duport, Touxagas, Griffi, Bentley.

St Helens: Wellens; Gardner, Gidley, Talau, Meli; Pryce, Long; Fozzard, Cunningham (capt), Cayless, Gilmour, Bennett, Wilkin. Subs: Graham, Roby, Fa'asavalu, Clough.

Referee: Ashley Klein (London).

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