St. Helens 40 Bradford Bulls 32 (VIEW MATCH)
1996 Challenge Cup final
Saints come back from the dead!
This, the first Challenge Cup final under the new Super League was a magnificent spectacle, with points galore and some brilliant rugby league football from both sides. It also showed that St. Helens, with their stellar squad were more than capable of snatching a fantastic victory from the jaws of defeat! Bradford Bulls had three former Saints’ players in their ranks – Paul Loughlin, Bernard Dwyer and Sonny Nickle, who had joined the club as part of the deal which saw centre Paul Newlove move to Knowsley Road, to give added spice to the proceedings.
Back with the cup
The Saints got off to a real flyer, with full-back Steve Prescott scoring twice in the first 15 minutes. Yet by half-time, they had lost impetus, with the Bulls enjoying a 12-14 advantage. Things got progressively worse for St. Helens, to such an extent that by the 53rd minute, Bradford scrum-half and captain Robbie Paul had scored two tries, Bernard Dwyer another and defeat was very much on the agenda at 12-26. It was time for desperate measures and within the space of ten minutes the Saints had snatched back the lead in the most incredible circumstances. Three towering ‘bombs’ from scrum-half Bobbie Goulding wrought havoc in the Bradford defence, with Bulls’ full-back Nathan Graham struggling to get anywhere near the ball. Keiron Cunningham, Simon Booth and Ian Pickavance were the try-scorers. Goulding converted all three and the Saints restored their lead at 30-26, an unlikely scenario at one stage.
It was back to handling after that, with Danny Arnold streaking in for his second try. Yet there was more drama with ten minutes to go, when Robbie Paul scored his third touchdown. Cook’s conversion reduced the lead to two points and it was left to Apollo Perelini to make the game safe for the Saints with a marvellous effort with just five minutes to go to complete one of the greatest come-backs ever in a major final.