St Helens 30, Catalan Dragons 8: Roby the brightest of stars for Saints

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If the sign of a success built on team effort is the credit being shared out, then that was what St Helens achieved to christen the new Wembley for rugby league. For the first time since Wigan beat Hunslet in 1965, the Lance Todd Trophy for the man of the match was shared between two players, Paul Wellens and Leon Pryce.

There was also support for Sean Long, who has won it three times in the past, and for James Roby, a young livewire who actually changed the course of the game. "I don't think we had anyone who didn't play well," said Saints' coach, Daniel Anderson.

There might have been no out and out star, but there were just too many players doing their jobs very well for the Catalan Dragons to handle. Wellens was quietly immaculate in all he did, especially during the first half-hour when the first French side to reach a cup final were giving as good as they got.

He scored a try, set another up and generally radiated calm assurance from start to finish. After the match, Wellens revealed that a Saints legend, Mal Meninga, had presented the squad with their shirts at their London hotel and given them a motivating talk. Neither they nor Wellens probably needed any extra inspiration, but they may have got some just the same.

Pryce's route to the final and his half-share in the Lance Todd had been more problematic. He had been suspended for the three previous games for the unsavoury action of grabbing an opponent's testicles.

"I wasn't too worried, because I didn't think it was worth any more than three matches," said the Great Britain stand-off, whose ball handling in this match was of a more conventional and highly effective kind. The true game-breaker, however, was Roby.

Brought into action as usual after half an hour – and a gritty, attritional half hour it had been – he immediately made the sort of impact that sets him apart as one of Britain's brightest prospects for the next 10 years. Picking the ball up from dummy-half, he went past six players, five of whom got hands on him, with a surge to the line which, at the old Wembley, would have done justice to Ellery Hanley, one of a parade of past Lance Todd winners before the match.

If it is the strength of their bench and Anderson's skill in using it that does much to keep Saints ahead of the field, Roby is the ace up his sleeve. "It was a fantastic individual effort," said the Catalans forward Jérôme Guisset. "Before that, I thought either side could have scored."

The Dragons did indeed come desperately close to getting their noses in front. The trouble was that once Roby had done the business for Saints, they never really looked back. Ade Gardner's try immediately before half-time was a hammer blow to the French, who would have been happy to go in just a couple of points behind. As it was, two more tries in the first 10 minutes of the second half just about finished them off.

Not that this was a disaster for the Catalans or for a British game that feared that a team from the wrong side of the Channel might not produce an atmosphere worthy of the final's new home. While the numbers actually travelling from Perpignan might have been modest, thanks particularly to the logistics of moving large numbers of people at short notice, with the help of plenty of co-opted temporary Catalans the Dragons' fans created enough noise to remind Saints that there were two teams in the match.

The credibility of the club will not have been damaged as it could have been by a real St Helens rampage and they will have learnt a lot from the experience. "All I want to do now is work hard to try to come back here next year," said Guisset, no doubt speaking for the rest of the team.

They did not exactly play badly. Stacey Jones was probing from start to finish and their forwards were tough and solid. But Adam Mogg struggled in the relatively unfamiliar position of stand-off and even a man as experienced as Jason Croker, the oldest player in Super League, made unforced errors that squandered too much possession.

If there was a star of the show, perhaps it was not a player at all, but the new Wembley itself. Rugby league players and supporters are going to take the rebuilt stadium to their hearts at least as much as they did its careworn predecessor.

Some thought the new Wembley lacked the atmosphere of the old, but they would get no support from the winning captain, Keiron Cunningham. "Leading the team out into that explosion of noise will stay with me forever," he said.

The stadium will host far better matches than this, but a new tradition has been born.

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