As part of a series, Last Word on Rugby is looking at the teams which have achieved the treble – winning the Challenge Cup, League Leaders and the Grand Final – in the same season.
Next up is the St Helens side of 2006.
St Helens were looking to go one further than in 2005 where they reached the semi-finals, after memorably thrashing rivals Wigan 75-0, but were comprehensively outplayed in losing 34-8 to eventual winners Hull FC.
They begin their 2006 campaign putting 56 points past Doncaster and the impressively accounted for Bradford Bulls before putting Catalans Dragons to the sword with another 50+ score.
A semi-final against Championship side Hull KR beckoned and the poor Robins were battered 50-0 as Daniel Anderson’s team continued their relentless march to the final.
Surprisingly, they would meet Huddersfield Giants after they produced an outstanding performance to beat Leeds Rhinos.
The final was to be held at Twickenham stadium as Wembley was undergoing construction work.
To cap one of the most dominant Challenge Cup runs, Saints convincingly ran out 42-12 winners but their opponents started strongly, taking the lead when Martin Aspinall scored.
However, the Saints would eventually hit back through Willie Talau and led at half-time when a neat passing move ended in Sean Long dotting down.
The win was effectively sealed when the favourites added further scores through James Roby and Maurie Fa’asavalu as they pushed the lead out to 18 points.
Their fifth try was the best of the lot as mercurial scrum-half Sean Long, who won the Lance Todd Man of the Match award for a record third time, broke from his own half and put in an inch-perfect kick for Jamie Lyon to pounce.
Jon Wilkin, despite his earlier broken nose, was next on the scoresheet as the Red Vee ran riot.
Robbie Paul grabbed a consolation try for the Giants but a Jason Cayless try and Lyon conversion confirmed Saints’ biggest score in a Challenge Cup final.
Super League Title
The previous campaign had seen the Saints have a successful season, winning all but five matches, but set an unwanted record by becoming the first team to finish first in the regular season but fail to reach the Grand Final as they lost to Leeds Rhinos.
It was clear from the outset that the Merseysiders were in for another impressive season as they won their opening 12 games.
A narrow loss to Huddersfield was the start of a slight blip for the leaders as despite beating Warrington and Wigan they narrowly lost successive games against Hull FC and Bradford.
However, led by Paul Sculthorpe they won ten of their last 11 games, with the only aberration coming against Catalans.
This streak saw them win the League Leaders Shield again in a season where they lost only four matches, none of them by more than four points, finishing with the league’s best attack and defence.
The play-offs saw St Helens host second-placed Hull FC and the Knowsley Road faithful were treated to a nail-biter with Saints edging their way to the Grand Final 12-8 courtesy of tries from Francis Meli and Ade Gardner.
Their opponents grabbed their second chance, beating Bradford to set up a rematch with Anderson’s men at Old Trafford.
The Saints withstood early pressure to strike first in the showpiece event, Meli scoring against the Black and Whites for the fourth time in five matches.
Minutes later, Hull who had been thrashed 46-0 by Saints early in the season hit back through centre Sid Domic as it looked like only a two-point deficit at the break.
In the dying moments of the half though, Leon Pryce raced through to score with Lyon converting for a 10-4 half-time lead.
If that score was important, two tries in three minutes shortly after the restart wrapped up victory for the Saints.
Firstly, Willie Talau added to his Cup final try by finishing of a clever move and Ade Gardner then collected a Long high kick to ensure there was no way back.
Keiron Cunningham grabbed a fifth try, his 150th for the club with Lyon adding his third goal to cap a 26-4 victory.
Fittlingly, fullback Paul Wellens claimed the Harry Sunderland man of the match award weeks after winning the Man of Steel for the league’s best player.
Wellens was an integral part, scoring 22 tries in a free-scoring side which saw an impressive wing and centre partnership of Gardner and Lyon who crossed for 31 and 22 tries respectively.
One of the best halfback combinations in Super League history of Long and Pryce (part of Bradford’s 2003 treble winning side) were aided by Saints legend Cunningham at hooker.
The St Helens squad
Francis Meli, Jason Cayless, Willie Talau, Jason Hooper, Jamie Lyon, Nick Fozzard, Paul Sculthorpe, Sean Long, Paul Anderson, Lee Gilmour, Leon Pryce, Vinnie Anderson, Paul Wellens, Kieron Cunningham, Ade Gardner, Ian Hardman, James Roby, Mike Bennett, Jon Wilkin, James Graham, Maurie Fa’asavalu, Scott Moore, Paul Clough, Matty Smith, Steve Tyrer, Dean McGilvray, Craig Littler, Gareth Langley, Craig Ashall, Ian Webster, Paul Leyland
“Main photo credit”