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Warrington beat St Helens to reach Super League Grand Final

Warrington Wolves's Lee Briers (right) celebrates after the final whistle of the Stobart Super League Semi Final, Langtree Park, St Helens. Photo: Clint Hughes/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Warrington are 80 minutes away from the elusive double after coming from 14-6 down to win their Super League play-off semi-final against St Helens at Langtree Park and secure a first Grand Final appearance.

Two tries in a three-minute spell midway through the second half from Australian forward Trent Waterhouse clinched victory for the Wolves, who will meet Leeds at Old Trafford next Saturday in a repeat of last month's Challenge Cup final which they won 35-18.

Warrington, who will become only the sixth club to contest the Grand Final, ran in four second-half tries to thwart Saints' bid for a seventh successive trip to Old Trafford and bring Mike Rush's reign as caretaker coach to a sorry end.

St Helens, the last team to do the double in 2006, dominated the first half and ought to have been further ahead than 14-12 at the break but they quickly ran out of steam when Warrington got their second wind in the second half.

The Wolves, who lost to Saints in the opening round of the play-offs, were boosted by the return of Man of Steel contender Ben Westwood for his first appearance since Wembley but it was his second row partner Waterhouse who stole the show.

The former Kangaroo international was a Grand Final winner in the NRL with Penrith Panthers back in 2003 and will fancy his chances of doing the double.

Yet Saints had looked the more dangerous side throughout the first half with right winger Tommy Makinson going close and left winger Francis Meli denied by a forward pass from Jon Wilkin and it was no surprise when they opening the scoring on 11 minutes.

Makinson had no right to score after taking Chris Flannery's pass with Chris Riley still to beat but he produced an acrobatic dive to get around his man and plant the ball over the line.

It was against the run of play that Warrington took the lead on 17 minutes, with Wilkin conceding possession with a knock-on 30 metres from his own line and Richie Myler combining with Brett Hodgson to get Riley over at the corner.

Hodgson's touchline conversion made it 6-4 but Saints remained unfazed and they looked to have seized control with two tries in a 10-minute spell.

Second rower Mark Flanagan took the ball to the Warrington line of defenders to suck in their defence and his long, looping pass gave Meli the space to cross at the corner.

The big Kiwi would have had a second try but for a last-ditch tackle from Hodgson but the Warrington full-back blotted his copybook shortly afterwards, spilling Wilkin's towering kick to present his opposite number Paul Wellens with the easiest of scores.

Makinson kicked his first conversion at the third attempt to make it 14-6 but Warrington scored what proved to be a crucial try two minutes before the interval when loose forward Simon Grix charged onto Lee Briers' pass.

The visitors were back in front eight minutes into the second half when right winger Joel Monaghan was first to Briers' high kick and, although he dropped the ball, it went backwards and he had the presence of mind to gather it back up and touch down.

Hodgson maintained his accuracy with his third goal to make it 18-14 and the Wolves produced some tremendous defence to keep their lead intact before hitting a purple patch in which they ran in three tries in seven minutes.

The impressive Waterhouse supported a break by centre Ryan Atkins to score his first before powering through a tiring defence for his second while Riley finished off a smart crossfield passing move to claim the visitors' sixth try.

Meli stopped the rot with a consolation try eight minutes from the end but Hodgson wrapped up the scoring with a penalty to take his goal tally to six from seven attempts.

Tony Smith, Warrington Wolves head coach Credit: Joe Giddens/EMPICS Sport

Warrington coach Tony Smith described his club's inaugural Grand Final appearance as "an enormous achievement" after they set up an Old Trafford showdown with Leeds next Saturday.

"It's nice to be involved in Wembley for the last few years but to be in there and competing at the top of the pile in Super League is a big thing for the town and the club" Smith said.

"I'm delighted for the owner and everybody involved in the club."

"Trent (Waterhouse) was terrific," Smith added. "He's been very good all year for us.

"There have probably been two games where I thought he hasn't played that great, the rest of the time he has been very good and he deserves a lot of plaudits.

"We were good in the second half and we needed to be. I thought they were better than us in the first half. We had to lift some areas and we sure did.

"I know it must be difficult for Saints to miss out on something they've been very good at so they must be hurting and I feel for them."

St Helens caretaker coach Mike Rush admitted conceding a try just before half-time changed the momentum of the game.

"We were real pleased with our first half and we were probably a bit unlucky to concede just before half-time," he said.

"I don't think we got one penalty in the second half - it was 5-0 in penalties in a semi-final - and, once you lose momentum in a big match, it's hard to wrestle it back.

"Warrington were fantastic and Trent Waterhouse was the best I've seen him."

Rush, who has been in temporary charge for the last six months, will now hand over the reins to Nathan Brown for the start of the 2013 season.

"I would have taken being 40 minutes away from the Grand Final when we took over in March," he said.

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