Paul Wellens “disappointed” with crucial decision after semi-final defeat

St Helens’ dreams of winning the Challenge Cup in 2023 are over after a shock defeat to Leigh Leopards at Warrington Wolves’ Halliwell Jones Stadium.

The Saints appeared to have one foot in the final at halftime when they led 6-0 at the break with a great Joey Lussick try as he snapped up an opportunity in a real smart piece of play from the departing hooker.

The Champions overwhelmed Leigh with possession and territory in the first half but Adrian Lam’s side clung on and frustrated Paul Wellens’ side in the first 40 before lifting the intensity in the second 40 to storm to a famous win.

The decisive try came from Zak Hardaker but there was a question mark over the decision as Tom Briscoe and Tee Ritson chased the ball with a suspicion of a push.

Paul Wellens raised this question after the game speaking to Saints TV:

“I’m disappointed with it but I want to be clear in this because sometimes when I make comments, you get headlines saying ‘Wellens slams officials’ and things like that.

“That is not the case. I think there’s two blokes running for a ball and I would say if that was going in the other direction it would be penalised for an escort.

“Tee Ritson gets knocked off when he’s going for the ball and that is quite clear for me.

“However, what I don’t want this to become is the story of the game because there are two teams out there who absolutely busted their guts and gave everything possible to win a game.

“I want to congratulate Leigh for obviously making the final because they don’t make those decisions.

“They turned up and competed in every play just like we do and they were good enough on the day to come out on the right side.”

Wellens also opened up on how the defeat felt to him.

“I’m obviously devastated,” Wellens said, “There was a huge prize at stake and the opportunity to go and play at Wembley does not get much bigger.

“I have been in this position before as a player when you lose a semi final and it is never nice and I am gutted.”

He then went on to explain what went wrong: “Perhaps when you look back on the game and the opportunities are very few and far between.

“It’s probably an area of our game where we need to be better: attacking the opposition’s goal line.

“In a game like that where the margins are so fine we probably need to nail one or two more of them and if you do, you are probably on the end of a different result.”

He was also disappointed with the try Saints conceded straight after halftime:

“I was disappointed with the way we conceded that try particularly given the stuff that we’ve worked on during the week in terms of how to defend that threat in particular.

“We probably clocked off a little bit there and got burned early in the second-half which in big games with the small margins make a massive difference.

“And so the way we started the, the second-half was certainly not ideal.”