IT is World Club Challenge weekend – a fitting moment to reflect on the time 18 years ago when Saints took out the prize for the first time after beating Brisbane Broncos at Bolton’s Reebok Stadium.

Saints had not been given much of a hope against the NRL champions featuring a host of rugby league greats.

But they had prepared meticulously for it, staring training a month ahead of usual at Club La Santa in Lanzarote and were thankful to the homework done on the Broncos by Ian Millward’ s assistant Harry Bryant.

Still, it was going to be a mountain to climb, and skipper Chris Joynt penned in his autobiography – The Quiet Man – felt there was real self-belief.

He said: “I maintain to this day only 22 people really knew that something special was going to happen that night. Nobody gave us a chance.”

Joynt said a key part of the game-plan was to pin down Wendell Sailor, given that his powerful runs had the potential to start the Broncos sets off quickly – but there was a weakness.

Joynt said: “I had a ploy of gripping and winding him up even more, knowing full well he would want to fight me and the result would be he would have the slowest play the ball on the park and our lads could get the line set.”

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Stand off Shaun Berrigan opened the scoring for the Broncos, but the outstanding Paul Sculthorpe responded for Saints.

It was, however, looking ominous when tries from Philip Lee and Brad Meyer pushed Broncos 18-6 up.

All was not lost and Sean Long collected a pass from skipper Joynt to give Saints hope – and then came another big turning point from above.

The heavens opened with hailstones as big as tennis balls.

The hailstone was the cue for Saints to level, with Paul Newlove surging down the left hand side before turning the ball back inside for the supporting Joynt to power over.

Joynt said: “I tucked it under my arm and then it was a clear run to the line, then next thing big Gorden Tallis came in late with the knees as I touched down.

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“It winded me but I was not bothered because I knew I had got the all-important score.

“That was a kind of frustration on their part because even though there was quite a bit of time to play, they knew we had more or less got them. It was a case of just holding on then.

“The sight of those boys from the sunshine state standing behind the posts, getting lashed in the face by a Horwich hailstorm was a big boost for us. The rest is history as they say.

“We knew they could score from anywhere but that surge never came – I reckon that was testimony to our fitness and determination.”

Drop goals from Sculthopre and Long made it 20-18 and Saints held them – Darren Lockyer, Sailor, Tallis, Berrigan et al.

There were elements of that game that are still talked about today; Sculthorpe was immense – a player that always took his game to an even higher notch when the Aussies were in town,

And then there was the sight of Paul Wellens with his face sporting the wounds of war having played virtually the full 80 minutes with shattered eye socket.

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Then the performances of David Fairleigh and Keiron Cunningham who were immense in the physicality stakes against the big Brisbane pack.

Saints 20-18 victory meant for the first time ever – visitors coming into town from every direction in 2001 would be greeted with the words “Welcome to St Helens, Home of the 2001 World Club Champions!”