Kristian Woolf given poignant goodbye at Totally Wicked Stadium as Saints head to Grand Final

Saints beat Salford 19-12 in Woolf’s last game at the Totally Wicked Stadium and head to Old Trafford for the Grand Final.

Kristian Woolf the head coach of St Helens celebrates after victory over Salford Red Devils.
Kristian Woolf the head coach of St Helens celebrates after victory over Salford Red Devils.
Kristian Woolf the head coach of St Helens celebrates after victory over Salford Red Devils.

St Helens and rivals Salford Red Devils formed a guard of honour at the end of their Betfred Super League semi-final play-off at a sun-kissed Totally Wicked Stadium on Saturday as a farewell and lasting tribute to departing head coach Kristian Woolf.

The 47-year-old Aussie is returning home to continue his career in the NRL after a trophy-filled three seasons in this country and the rousing reception he received from the fans told its own poignant story.

Now, following the 19-12 victory over the Mancunians, Woolf and his players will be hoping to put the icing on the cake when they face resurgent Leeds Rhinos in the Old Trafford Grand Final on Saturday night.

Acknowledging the part the Queenslander had played in the club’s recent history, veteran skipper James Roby said: "With the impact Kristian has had on the players and the success we have achieved under his leadership, we owe it to him to do our utmost to send him out on a high.

"He has done an amazing job here and it’s sad to see him go but we understand why."

Saints reported no further injury worries after the weekend’s bruising and often brutal encounter, leaving the head coach facing at least one intriguing question: Who does he play in the full back role from the start? Teenager Jon Bennison, or experienced Tongan international Will Hopoate?

Hopoate was close to full fitness leading up to the semi-final tie and is likely to be considered ready to resume but the claims of the 19-year-old academy product cannot be ignored.

He was outstanding against Salford from start to finish, defusing any bombs which came his way and then popping up at the other end of the field late on to score a crucial try, fashioned by his speed of thought and unerring finishing.

Two-try second row forward Joe Batchelor also caught the eye, both in attack and defence, and arguably is the most improved player in the Saints’ ranks this year.

But there is no denying that mercurial half back Jonny Lomax emerged as the man of the match. He was at the hub of everything positive, helping set up several tries and landing an ice-cool drop goal on the stroke of half-time to give Saints a vital 7-2 advantage.

Saints: Bennison, Makinson, Hurrell, Mata’utia, Percival, Welsby, Lomax, Passi, Roby, Lees, Sironen, Batchelor, Knowles. Subs: Lussick, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Bell, Wingfield.

Tries: Batchelor (13 and 17mins), Bennison (69). Conversions: Makinson (3/3).

Drop goal: Lomax (40).

Sin-bin: Knowles ( (24), Makinson (74).

Salford: Brierley, Sio, Lafai, Cross, Burgess, Atkin, Sneyd, Ormondroyd, Ackers, Vuniyayawa, Wright, Watkins, Taylor. Subs: Bourouth, Dupee, Gerrard, Luckley.

Tries: Watkins(24), Brierley (60). Conversions: Sneyd (2/2).

Half-time: 7-2.

Full-time: 19-12.