St Helens will be looking to dethrone Sydney Roosters as the best club side in rugby league on February 22 when they face off in the World Club Challenge. Will Super League be victorious, or will the Aussies hold bragging rights again? Check out the tips and predictions ahead of the clash at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
The World Club Challenge should get more recognition than it currently gets. This trophy should be to determine which side is the best in the world and which competition – Super League or NRL – is the most superior.
Unfortunately, that has not always been the case. The Australian teams have always been reluctant to host the game as they don’t class it as a major deal, while the Super League clubs take it seriously and use any success as a badge of honour.
Since the World Club Challenge concept was created, it has only been held in Australia on four occasions. The last one was in 2018 when Melbourne Storm defeated Leeds Rhinos, so there could be some potential of it being staged in Australia a few more times in the future.
History of the World Club Challenge
The first ever game dubbed the World Club Challenge actually featured these two teams. The Sydney Roosters were known back then as the Eastern Suburbs and they ran out 25-2 winners over the Saints at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1976.
It took another 11 years for a game of this magnitude to take place as the first official World Club Challenge match took pace at Central Park, Wigan when over 37 thousand fans crammed into the old ground to witness English champions Wigan defeat Australian champions Manly-Warringah 8-2 in a thrilling game that got everyone talking.
Wigan were the first English team to win the World Club Challenge in 1987 and they have since won it three more times. They defeated Penrith Panthers at Anfield in 1991 before going over to Australia to become the first and only team to win over there when they beat Brisbane Broncos 20-14 in 1994.
Their fourth and final World Club Challenge win came in 2017 when the Warriors defeated Cronulla Sharks 22-6 at the DW Stadium.
St Helens have won the World Club Challenge on two different occasions, but they have also lost four of them. Both of their victories were against Brisbane Broncos in 2001 and 2007.
Their first win in 2001 saw them come back from 18-6 down to win the match 20-18 at Bolton’s reebok Stadium. St Helens are a team that do not know when they are beaten. Once they went 18-6, they started to play some rugby.
Sean Long crossed for a try to give them hope as they only trailed by six now. Saints levelled the contest at 18-18 when Paul Newlove broke down the left before turning the ball inside for Chris Joynt to race over. Two drop goals from Sculthorpe and Long in the final seven minutes ensured Saints won the WCC for the first time in their history.
Their second success against the Broncos was just as thrilling. Again, Brisbane scored first with Corey Parker capitalising on an Ade Gardner mistake. With the Saints trailing 8-0, Gardner redeemed himself with a try in the corner just before half-time.
Darius Boyd extended Brisbane’s lead in the second half following great kick from Darren Lockyer to lead 12-6. Saints soon levelled it up with Paul Sculthorpe taking a short pass from Keiron Cunningham to go in under the posts. Brisbane went back in front before a superb try from Gardner sealed the win.
A towering kick to the corner from Sean Long saw the winger leap the highest to collect the ball and touch down for his second try of the night. It was the first time in the game that St Helens had led, and they did not let it go.
It’s safe to say the Sydney Roosters are the most successful Australian team in the history of the World Club Challenge. They have won the trophy four times – twice beating the Saints and twice beating Wigan.
They are the defending champions of the World Club Challenge after they defeated Wigan 20-8 at the DW Stadium last February. No team in the history of the World Club Challenge have ever won the trophy back-to-back, but I have a feeling the Roosters will be that team.
St Helens vs Sydney Roosters History
I’ve already mentioned that the Roosters beat Saints in Sydney in the first ever World Club Challenge, well they have actually met since and to be honest, this is a game many Saints fans will want to forget.
The Roosters came to England in 2003 with a star-studded squad that featured the likes of Anthony Minichello, Justin Hodges, Shannon Hegarty, Brad Fittler, Jason Cayless, Adrian Morley, Craig Fitzgibbon and Luke Ricketson. This was a team, unlike others in the past, coming here to win a trophy.
St Helens were no mugs themselves, they had Darren Albert, Martin Gleeson, Paul Newlove, Tommy Martyn, Sean Long, Chris Joynt and Paul Sculthorpe in their ranks, but they were blown away on the day.
The Roosters ran in five tries courtesy of Fitzgibbon, Morley, Todd Byrne, Fittler and Todd Payten as they ran out convincing 38-0 winners.
St Helens vs Sydney Roosters – World Club Challenge Tips & Predictions
That defeat will still smart for the thousands of Saints fans in attendance that night. This St Helens team is special, they hit you are in defence and don’t concede tries easily and their attack is sublime. They have the pace to score from anywhere on the field – but will it be good enough to the Roosters.
I’ve watched a lot of games involving these two over the years and I have to go with the Roosters. I know they have lost Cooper Cronk after he retired and Latrell Mitchell to South Sydney Rabbitohs, but they still have quality all over the paddock.
In James Tedesco, they have arguably the best player in the world. He rarely makes mistakes and if you want to beat the Roosters then he needs to have a stinker. He will be backed up by the likes of Luke Keary, Jake Friend, Daniel Tupou, Brett Morris, Joseph Manu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Mitch Aubusson and Sio Siua Taukeiaho. As you can see the list is basically endless and they are deserved favourites. The Chooks will be without Boyd Cordner fot his game through injury.
It would be foolish to completely write the Saints off, that is what they thrive on. They will be still be hurting from their last appearance in the World Club Challenge when they were hammered 39-0 by the Rabbitohs in 2015.
Head coach Kristian Woolf welcomes back inspirational leader James Roby after missing the first three rounds of Super League following surgery on a groin problem/. there is no place for Regan Grace or Lachlan Coote with concussion and a knee problem respectively.
There will be a lot of Super League fans not rooting for St Helens as their club rivalry will just not allow it. If you are one of them, why not back the Roosters to win 40-0? Seems strange you might think, but the Roosters beat them 38-0 in 2003, only for their fierce rivals South Sydney go one better with a 39-0 success. If it gets to be a blowout, then you can expect the Roosters to want to get one over on the Bunnies with the highest winning margin.