Former NRL star Kurt Gidley has played an influential role as Warrington beat St Helens 18-10 in a fast and furious semi-final to become the first team through to the Super League grand final.
Saints were on course for an eighth successive win at the Halliwell Jones Stadium after scoring eight points in two minutes before the interval, but the Wolves dominated the second half to reach their third deciderl.
The League leaders will now meet the winners of Friday’s second semi-final between Wigan and Hull at Old Trafford on October 8.
Gidley, hooker Daryl Clark and fullback Stefan Ratchford were the architects of Warrington’s superb victory but St Helens fullback Jonny Lomax hardly deserved to be on the losing side.
The two teams enjoyed a tense opening which was notable for uncharacteristic errors from Saints hooker James Roby and Ratchford, normally two of the most reliable performers, a sign perhaps of the big prize at stake.
Halfback Dec Patton opened the scoring midway through the first half with a penalty which Luke Walsh cancelled out five minutes later while the returning Gidley scored the first try, crashing over following slick passing by Clark and Patton.
Canberra-bound five-eighth Jordan Turner, playing what proved to be his final game for St Helens, came up with the play of the match, drawing two defenders on an arcing run near halfway before releasing winger Adam Swift and Lomax was on his inside to finish off a glorious move.
Walsh kicked the conversion to level the scores and nudged his side in front on the stroke of half-time with a 40-metre penalty after Wolves substitute George King was pulled up for interference in the ruck.
The home side were clearly stung by Saints’ fightback and upped their game at the start of the second half.
Handling errors in the wet conditions from Patton and Lineham gave the visitors an opportunity to put Warrington’s defence under intense pressure but Tony Smith’s side proved up to the task, with Saints centre Dominique Peyroux having a late try ruled out by the video referee.
One of Newcastle’s most-decorated players after playing 251 NRL games for the Knights, Gidley is in his first season with Warrington.
Despite missing Warrington’s win over Hull FC to set-up a semi-final berth, Gidley has enjoyed a successful debut year in Super League after he was named in the competition’s Dream Team.