Luke Thompson produced another titanic performance up front as St Helens ended their season of dominance with a Super League title.
The England front rower was immense up front before finally being withdrawn in the 72nd minute, by which time victory was assured for Justin Holbrook’s side.
It ended a fairytale run to the season’s showcase game for underdogs Salford, although the Red Devils and their supporters played their full part in an entertaining clash.
Saints looked like running away with matters when back rowers Morgan Knowles and Zeb Taia crossed for tries in a dominant opening 25 minutes.
But Salford found their feet before the break, responding when increasingly influential half-backs Tui Lolohea and Jackson Hastings created a try for Jake Bibby.
That closed the gap to six points at half-time, but a superb individual try from Mark Percival, three Lachlan Coote goals and an unlikely Tommy Makinson eventually eased Saints to victory and a first title since 2014.
Here are five talking points from the game.
1. Holbrook heads home a winner
St Helens have completely dominated Super League for the two full seasons that coach Justin Holbrook has been in charge – but hadn’t landed one of the two major trophies before tonight.
They failed to make both finals in 2018 and stumbled to a shock Challenge Cup final defeat to Warrington at Wembley.
This season the 16 points clear they finished at the top of the table was a record in British rugby league history.
And Holbrook finally got his hands on the big one as his talented side produced an accomplished performance on the Old Trafford stage.
The Australian now heads home to take charge of NRL strugglers Gold Coast Titans and will forever be remembered fondly on the St Helens terraces.
2. Phenomenal Thompson crucial again
Luke Thompson was the star of St Helens’ semi-final win over Wigan with a destructive 54-minute spell – and he bettered that at Old Trafford.
The England front rower – now widely regarded as one of the best props on either side of the world – was again titanic for Holbrook’s side.
Him and Alex Walmsley helped Saints dominate the opening 25 minutes, and Thompson remained on the field well beyond that, constantly punching holes in the Salford defence.
When he was eventually forced off in the 72nd minute he received a huge ovation from the St Helens supporters – and was then crowned Harry Sunderland Trophy winner as man of the match.
Thompson’s battles with forwards from New Zealand, Tonga and Papua New Guinea for Great Britain this autumn will be fascinating.
3. Red Devils must build on success
Salford might have fallen short at the final hurdle, but their run to the Grand Final has been one of the feel-good stories of the last few seasons of Super League.
Roared on by a huge travelling support, they have created memories for long suffering supporters and attracted countless new ones.
The trick for the club now is making the most of the interest this season has created for 2020 an beyond.
Ian Watson’s team have offered a glimpse into the potential of the famous club, hopefully they can now fulfil that.
4. Watson’s quick change
As the Red Devils stormed to Old Trafford, the stock of their popular coach Ian Watson has continued to rise.
The former Salford half-back will now link up with Great Britain on this autumn’s tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, recognition that is richly deserved.
His attention to detail, man management skills and tactical know-how have been central to what his side has achieved this year.
He also provided the quickest change in Grand Final history by swapping the suit he walked his team out in to a tracksuit on the touchline before kick-off.
It said everything about his no-nonsense approach to the game.
5. An unlikely cherry on top
Of all the ways to finish a Grand Final win, a 45-metre drop goal from a winger was hardly among the favourites.
But that’s what Tommy Makinson produced as the clock ran down, much to the delight of his team-mates.
The Golden Boot holder produced the sweetest of connections at the Theatre of Dreams to add a final memory to St Helens’ win.
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