Wigan Warriors- Talking Rugby: There's no doubting St Helens' greatness but a number of teams will be waiting to take their crown next year
With four Grand Final wins on the bounce under their belts, you can’t dispute their credentials.
They’ve recruited well and have had some great youngsters coming through across the last few years.
Kristian Woolf deserves a lot of credit for the work he has done, as he prepares to return to Australia.
There was a lot of expectation following Justin Holbrook’s success with the club, but he has more than risen to the challenge and improved the team further.
The next big task will be replacing him with the right candidate.
As for the Grand Final as an occasion, it’s truly one of rugby league’s premier events.
No matter who is in it, it is always an exciting fixture, full of drama and excitement.
It’s the game everyone wants to play in, alongside the final of the Challenge Cup.
They are the undisputed highlights of the season and are events that are just great to watch.
Both produce electric atmospheres and are held at iconic sporting locations.
The Challenge Cup boasts a lengthy history, while the Grand Final is the clash that closes the campaign.
Hours before kick off on Saturday evening, fans were already at Old Trafford in their numbers.
Both St Helens and Leeds fans were all mixing without any trouble, with a really good feel around the ground.
Supporters of clubs who weren’t involved in the game were in attendance as well, demonstrating the calibre of the event, unless they’d purchased their tickets a bit too far in advance.
It was also an eye spy of rugby league legends, with the likes of Jason Robinson walking around.
Once in the stadium, both sets of fans got louder and louder as kick off approached.
Prior to the fixture, Morgan Knowles had been in the headlines, after St Helens had successfully appealed his ban in their second attempt.
No matter what team you support, you have to despair at the decision due to the way it made the sport.
One thing you want from your sporting body is clarity and strength, with neither of those things present in this case.
When the teams were being read out at Old Trafford, the Rhinos fans made sure to give the Knowles an extra loud boo, which truly got them all going for the 80 minutes ahead.
Despite the way the game went and the final result, the Leeds supporters were superb.
They were behind their team from start to finish and hardly stopped singing.
Matty Lees opened the scoring after only three minutes, as Saints opened up their opponents.
Gaps appeared that hadn’t been there the week prior in the play-off semi-final against Wigan.
Woolf’s side doubled their lead just before the midway point of the first half through Jon Bennison.
It was a truly dominant display, as Saints just clicked into their usual gear.
They would’ve been frustrated not to go into the break with a bigger lead, as they allowed Leeds to pull one back just before half time.
.The Rhinos worked incredibly hard to open up some space for Kruise Leeming, never giving up.
This didn’t change the direction of the game, as Konrad Hurrell and Mark Percival both went over for Saints after the break, while Rhyse Martin got another for the Yorkshire side.
The game just proved to be a week too far for Leeds.
They had done incredibly well to get so far, and each match had been a must-win for over a month.
Rohan Smith has done a great job, and no doubt he’ll have his side firing from the very start of next season.
In his press conference after the game, it was clear to see just how much he has bought into the club and what it means to him already.
No doubt Wigan fans would have sat at home thinking what could have been if Matty Peet’s side had been at Old Trafford..
The Warriors have improved massively this season, and that will only continue.
If they had reached the final, then who knows, they might have stopped the Saints in their tracks.
Ultimately you can’t think like that, and the main thought now should be on the next campaign.
Wigan will be among the teams aiming to stop St Helens making it five in a row, and there’s no reason why they can’t.
The challengers are getting stronger, and in 12 months there could very well be a new name on the trophy.
Before we start making definitive predictions for 2023, there is a World Cup to look forward to.
It’s disappointing that Liam Farrell won’t be involved through injury, and is a major blow for England.
His Warriors teammates Liam Marshall and Harry Smith should both be in Shaun Wane’s squad.
The pair have enjoyed excellent years, their best to date in fact.
Looking at the competition in their positions, on form they should be in contention, but of course a lot of other factors are also taken into consideration.
It’ll be great to see the squad together for the warm-up game against Fiji at the AJ Bell Stadium, in what will be a crucial test.
The opening group game against Samoa is going to be a difficult game, so the preparation beforehand needs to be perfect.
Hopefully the support should be strong and fans will turn out, despite some of the ticket prices being on the hefty side.
The tournament is a big opportunity for the sport, so let's hope we take it with both hands.