Challenge Cup final: Key battles in Warrington v St Helens clash

Alex Walmsley of St Helens
Alex Walmsley of St Helens

There are a host of key battles that will help determine the outcome of the first major final between Super League neighbours Warrington and St Helens.

Here, the PA news agency picks out three head-to-head clashes that whet the appetite for Saturday's Coral Challenge Cup final between St Helens and Warrington at Wembley.

Lachlan Coote (St Helens) v Stefan Ratchford (Warrington) - the last line of defence and one of the first points of attack

Coote, a Grand Final winner with North Queensland Cowboys, has been magnificent in his first season with St Helens, slotting effortlessly into the role vacated by Ben Barba. A regular try scorer and creator and trusty marksman, he tops the Super League scoring charts with 229 points despite sitting out the last six weeks with a knee injury.

Blake Austin has stolen most of the headlines for Warrington this year with his creative prowess but Ratchford's contribution, both as an inventive attacking force and an immovable object in defence, has been immeasurable and he gave his side a major lift on the eve of the semi-final against Hull by returning early from a torn pectoral muscle.

James Roby (St Helens) v Daryl Clark (Warrington) - the battle of the England hookers

Evergreen is an apt description of Roby, who appeared in all three of Saints' Challenge Cup final triumphs from 2006-08 and is still playing to the highest standard. Now 33 and captain of the side, Roby has been used sparingly by his coach in recent weeks, such is his importance to the team, and invariably rises to the big occasion.

Clark, conversely, has missed only two games this year and is preciously close to recapturing his 2014 Man of Steel form. Lightning quick out of dummy half, he was also clocked at 35.82 kilometres per hour during a game against Hull KR this season, a speed faster than any recorded in the Premier League or NFL last season, as he chased back to pull off a try-saving tackle.

Alex Walmsley (St Helens) v Chris Hill (Warrington) - the clash of the front row heavyweights

Walmsley is making up for lost time after sitting out virtually the whole of 2018 with a neck injury and starting to find the form that made him such a hit at the last World Cup. He has been rested for Saints' last four league games so will be fresh and at his explosive best for his Wembley debut.

Hill is Mr Dependable and a captain who leads by example with his energy, enthusiasm and insatiable appetite for work. Stoical in defence, he will carry the ball forward all day in the drive to leave nothing on the field and is not afraid of showing off his ball-handling skill if the opportunity arises.

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