SAINTS coach Justin Holbrook was delighted to guide his side to Wembley for the first time since 2008 after seeing off the stubborn resistance from Championship side Halifax.

They were on something of a hiding to nothing in today’s semi-final at a rain-lashed Bolton Wanderers stadium but were always in control despite a few early jitters.

Halifax defended well and caused Saints problems with their kicking game and trick plays, but Saints were guilty of not being direct enough in with the ball.

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Once that aspect of the game was fixed up, and the part-timers began to be worn down, the scoreboard began to tick over in sixes to win 26-2.

Holbrook said: “I am really happy to win. The main thing with a semi-final is that you have to get past it to get to Wembley – and we have done that. That is really pleasing.

“We expected a tough game – and we got it. It is good for the competition over here to have a Championship side in the semi final and to play as well as they did, I thought was great.

“They tried hard for the full 80 and that was good for Halifax, the Championship level but for us we are happy to win it.”

Saints paid Halifax the compliment of kicking an early penalty goal – and that mark of respect was duly noted by the underdogs.

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Holbrook said: “I knew it was going to be a tough day and they were always going to make it hard for us.

“They are tricky games to play when you are side that everyone thinks you have already won the game.

But in the end it is a semi final and the winners go to Wembley and that is what we keep coming back to. “ The constant drizzle and greasy ball were something of a leveller, but Holbrook as good as admitted that constantly trying to ship the ball wide without having earned the right was a mistake that needed to be rectified.

“They were tough conditions with constant drizzle, we tried to play a bit too much in the first half and did not handle that well.

“But we settled down a bit in the second half which was great and defensively too we were terrific for 80 minutes.”

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With Lachlan Coote missing, meaning Jonny Lomax having to be shunted from his berth in the halves, Saints had a slightly different spine with Danny Richardson coming in.

But key to getting a grip and giving Saints some direction was skipper James Roby, back in the fold for the first time since mid-June.

His probing from dummy half, and the way he attacked the line, yielding the first score, was complemented by a shrewd kicking game that also led to touchdowns.

Holbrook said: “It was great to have Robes back and we are a much better side when he is out there.”

Holbrook admitted that the Halifax side, who seemed to celebrate every time they denied Saints in a set, caused them problems – some of them down to their unorthodox tactics – which caused his own side to deviate from the script.

“When you don’t play a side during the (regular) year they were always going to try different things and defend in different ways, changing constantly.

“So when you are in attack you can get excited by that as you see different things that are not normally there week-to-week and we can try too hard to look for those perfect plays, but they don’t come around too often – especially in those conditions.

“In the end we settled down much better and got on with it,” he said.

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“We all know we haven’t been there for a long time and that was weighing on the boys’ shoulders as well.

“It is always a tough game but I thought our outside backs did a great job, in particular Mark Percival who I thought was the best on the field tonight.

“He was brilliant with everything he did. He carried strong and defended really strong. I thought he was our best by a long way today.”

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After picking apart some aspects of the performance, the upside is that Saints are heading to Wembley – something that will really put a spring in everyone’s step for the next four weeks.

“It all sinks in,” he said. “It is hard as a coach at the time because you want them to play better, but the fact that we are there is terrific, and we are looking forward to it.”

Saints were without Lachlan Coote and Morgan Knowles for this one and Holbrook gave something of an update.

“Cootey has a knee injury that he hurt against Wigan and that will probably mean he will be out for a couple more weeks now.

“Morgan Knowles is a bit sore in the ribs from the London game,” he said.

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And he dead-batted the final question on his future with, “No update, I am just worried about these games now – they are coming thick and fast so I am keeping my head down and getting on with it,” he said.