Old Trafford victory was just reward for St Helens says former Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity forward Kyle Amor

St Helens' James Roby lifts the Grand Final trophy.St Helens' James Roby lifts the Grand Final trophy.
St Helens' James Roby lifts the Grand Final trophy.
OF THE two former Leeds Rhinos players on duty in the 2019 Betfred Super League Grand Final, Kyle Amor was the one smiling at the end.

The front-rower was expected to be the cornerstone of Rhinos’ pack for a decade when they signed him from Whitehaven ahead of the 2010 season, but his Leeds career amounted to only three substitute appearances that year before a move to Wakefield Trinity got him back on track.

Offloaded to St Helens, for financial reasons, at the end of 2013, he was a Grand Final winner in his debut campaign there and collected his second Super League ring after Saturday’s 23-6 success against Salford Red Devils.

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The 32-year-old made an impact off the bench as Saints, the European game’s dominant team for the past two seasons, finally got their hands on silverware again.

Morgan Knowles celebrates after scoring Saints' first tryMorgan Knowles celebrates after scoring Saints' first try
Morgan Knowles celebrates after scoring Saints' first try

“This team has been beaten in seven regular-season games in 59,” Amor said of the 2018 and 2019 league leaders.

“We have been beaten three times this year in the league and four times last year.

“That takes some doing. We have set a record by winning the table by 16 points and that’s not easy to do.

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“I think it is justification of how hard we work as a group.”

Saints under-performed when they were beaten by Warrington Wolves at Wembley in August, but have been head and shoulders above their rivals this year. Amor doesn’t expect them to fall away next year, despite losing Holbrook to Gold Coast Titans.

“We have been the entertainers this year and at times we’ve just blown people away,” he said.

“At other times we’ve ground things out and I don’t want to sound arrogant, but we’ve been the best side for two years now and for one reason or another we’ve fallen short.

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“Since [coach] Justin Holbrook came in we’ve slowly built and gone from not looking like making the play-offs at all, to [Castleford’s] Luke Gale knocking us out with a drop goal, then the next year we won the league leaders and this year we’ve done that again, got to both finals and won one of them.

“This group is still growing, it’s very much a young group – with a few older blokes like me – and it has phenomenal things ahead of it.”

Saints began the year as the competition sponsors’ 4-1 joint-favourites to win the Grand Final, alongside Warrington Wolves.

Salford, having finished 10th in the previous regular season, were 100-1. Only promoted London Broncos, at 500-1, were considered more of a long shot.

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An each way bet would have proved a valuable investment. Salford never looked like winning their first major final of the summer era, but gave a good account of themselves, were in the game at half-time and didn’t get blown away.

Stand-off Tui Lolohea, discarded by Leeds in June, could hold his head high. Salford didn’t have much opportunity to attack, but Lolohea was involved in a try-saving tackle in the first half and also got over Saints’ line before the break, only for the touchdown to be ruled out for obstruction.

He also handled in the build-up to their only try, scored by Jake Bibby with Krisnan Inu adding the extras, which made it 12-6 at half-time, after Morgan Knowles and Zeb Taia had fired Saints ahead. Mark Percival scored the lone try of the second period, Lachlan Coote adding two penalties to his three conversions before Tommy Makinson – despite having suffered a dislocated shoulder which will keep him out of the Great Britain tour – landed a career-first drop goal from 40 metres late on.

Jackson Hastings, the Man of Steel, is one of several key players moving to pastures new, so how can Salford ensure this year, when they finished third in the table, was not a one-off?

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“By keeping the supporters,” Watson insisted. “We are a club that has to rely on local businesses and its supporters to fund us going forward. Hopefully we can keep some of the supporters who got behind us towards the back end of the year and they keep coming and we can build a proper team.”

St Helens: Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, Thompson, Taia, Peyroux, Knowles. Subs McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Amor, Ashworth, Smith.

Salford Red Devils: Evalds, Sio, Welham, Bibby, Inu, Lolohea, Hastings, Mossop, Tomkins, Dudson, Jones, Griffin, McCarthy. Subs Lussick, Flanagan, Walker, Burke.

Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield).

Attendance: 64,102.