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Woolf hails St Helens hat-trick

St Helens underlined their status as the most successful rugby league team in Super League era with a fourth consecutive grand final triumph at Old Trafford.

The defending champions’ 24-12 victory over Leeds, in front of a crowd of 60,783, earned Saints a record ninth grand final win and enabled them to send Kristian Woolf out on a high.

The Australian, who is heading back home to be assistant to Wayne Bennett at the Dolphins next year, is the first coach to win three successive grand finals.

Woolf said: “Of course, it’s my greatest achievement. Winning my first grand final was my greatest achievement, so being able to do three in a row is absolutely outstanding.

“But, as I’ve said all along, it’s not me, it’s this group of men. They’ve been absolutely outstanding and they deserve everything they get,” he told Sky Sports.

“They deserve to be known as the best team in the Super League era – there’s no doubt about that.

“You can’t compare eras, in terms of who are the better players. But you can compare success and results and that’s what this group deserve.

“I love the way they fight. That bond they’ve got, that desire not to let each other down, is certainly the best I’ve ever dealt with.”

Saints became the first team to win four in a row and Woolf bested fellow Australian Rohan Smith, the Leeds coach.

Smith arrived from Norths Devils in April to steer Leeds from second from the bottom of the table to an unlikely 14th grand final.

“We had a good crack. We played a bit and got close against a team who know how to play on this stage and they outplayed us today,” Smith told the BBC.

“We’ve got to get better, we gave ourselves a good opportunity, we gave it a crack but it’s time to reflect and learn some stuff. They were 12 points more clinical.

“There’s a lot of trust and belief in the playing group and we galvanised through some tough times.

“You’d still rather be here and cop a hard defeat than not be here at all. You’ve got to be willing to taste defeat to have the good days. It’s a great club and we’re proud of what we’ve done.”

But this proved to be a game too far for Smith’s men as Saints’ halfbacks Jack Welsby and Jonny Lomax ran the show.

St Helens scored the fastest try in a grand final when Matty Lees went over for the opener with a little over two minutes on the clock. Fullback Jon Bennison made it 12-0 after 17 minutes.

Although Leeds sub Kruise Leeming cut the deficit before the break, Konrad Hurrell powered over shortly after the restart for Saints.

Mark Percival extended Saints’ advantage to 18 points before Rhyse Martin crossed for Leeds late on.

With agencies

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