St Helens RFC


Founded in 1873, the club moved in 1890, defeating Manchester Rangers in the first match played at Knowsley Road. In 1895 Saints were one of 22 clubs that resigned from the Rugby Football Union and established the Northern Union. The first match of the new code was an 8-3 win at home to Rochdale Hornets before 3,000 spectators, Bob Doherty scoring Saints’ first try. The Saints played in a vertically striped blue and white jersey- a stark contrast to the well known red vee which would become the kit for the club later. The club reverted back to this kit for one season during the rugby league centenary season in 1995.

The Challenge Cup was launched in 1897 and it was St Helens who contested its first final with Batley, at Headingley. The "Gallant Youths" of Batley emerged victorious 10-3, with Dave "Red" Traynor scoring the lone St Helens’ try.

In 1902/3 The Lancashire and Yorkshire leagues were combined to form a second division, St Helens was promoted to the first division.

On 14th June 1913, St Helens Recs joined the Northern Rugby Union. The Recs were based at City Road and played their first game on 6th September 1913. St Helens now had two professional rugby league teams.

In 1930, St Helens were beaten by Widnes in the Challenge Cup final.[1]

St Helens Recs played their last game on 29th April 1939. Due to the economic depression, it was not possible for the town to sustain two teams.

Jim Sullivan came to St Helens as coach in 1952 and took them to their first victory in the Challenge Cup Final, as well as to two championships.

Alan Prescott took over from Jim Sullivan as Saints’ coach. The recognisable ‘red vee’ strip first appeared in 1961, for the Challenge Cup Final against Wigan. Saints won this epic 12-6, and the kit has since become synonymous with the Saints.

Perhaps the golden era of the club came in the 1960s, as well as more lately in the recent Super League era. With a galaxy of stars including Tom van Vollenhoven, Alex Murphy, Dick Huddart and Vince Karalius, the 1960s was a decade of great success for the Saints, with the League and Challenge Cup double achieved in 1966.

The 1965 New Zealand tourists appeared at Knowsley Road on Wednesday 15 September. Saints inflicted a 28-7 defeat on their visitors, their biggest loss of the tour.

In 1977/78, Saints lost 26-11 to Hull Kingston Rovers in the final of the BBC2 Floodlit Trophy.

Kel Coslett took over as coach in June 1980. He held the post for two years before handing over to Billy Benyon.

Super League era

Saints have also become the most successful side of the summer era. Since the inception of Super League they have won the competition on five occasions, and have added Six Challenge Cups to their five previous successes. St Helens defeated Bradford Bulls 8-6 in the Grand Final, with more than 50,000 people seeing Chris Joynt lift the trophy at Old Trafford. They also won the World Club Challenge in 2001 and 2007. Beating Brisbane Broncos both times.

The success of the Saints in super league began under the leadership of Shaun McRae in 1996. During his tenure. The club won one league title and two challenge cups. Ellery Hanley succeeded McRae in 1999 and led Saints to Grand Final success against Bradford in the October of that year. However, Hanley was considered by many to be a polarising figure. Whilst he harboured a strong desire to win, he could appear aloof and had several acrimonious disagreements with the St. Helens board of directors, which led to his sacking in 2000. Ian Millward was appointed as head coach.

Under Millward, St Helens quickly became the most exciting team in the competition, playing expansive, attacking rugby. They retained their Super League title in 2000 beating Wigan 29-16 and reclaimed it in 2002 snatching a last minute 19-18 Grand Final win over the Bradford Bulls. They also won the Challenge Cup in 2001 13-6 over the Bulls with the final held at Twickenham for the first time and the World Club Challenge. In 2004 they beat arch-rivals Wigan 32-16 at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff in front of a capacity crowd of 73,734 people to win the Challenge Cup.

Millward's reign was not without controversy. In a match against Bradford over Easter 2004, he fielded a weakened team claiming a heavy fixture burden had taken its toll. St Helens were well beaten and it later emerged that two St Helens players, Sean Long and Martin Gleeson, had bet on their side to lose before the team was announced. Millward's St Helens career also ended controversially after he was suspended in May 2005. He was sacked for gross misconduct a week later. Daniel Anderson became the coach after Millward was sacked, but saw his new team become the first team to top the Super League and fail to reach Old Trafford.

They won the 2006 Challenge Cup final on 26 August, beating Huddersfield Giants 42-12. This was their second Challenge Cup victory at Twickenham stadium, the first occasion being in 2001. St Helens player Sean Long was awarded the Lance Todd trophy for the man-of-the-match performance during the 2006 Challenge Cup Final and in doing so became the first ever player to win a third Lance Todd trophy adding to the ones he won in 2001 and 2004.

St Helens followed up their Challenge Cup win by claiming the League Leader's Shield before cementing their reputation as the team of the year by defeating Hull FC 26 points to 4 in the Super League Grand Final. Once more St. Helens confirmed their status as the outstanding team of the summer era. Additionally, Paul Wellens received the Man of Steel Award.

In December 2006 St Helens were awarded with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Team Award at the Annual BBC Sports Personality of the Year Ceremony, this accolade recognises the best team in any sport within the United Kingdom. At the same ceremony Daniel Anderson was given the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Coach Award - this was the first time a rugby league coach had won the award.

After a slow start to the 2007 season, Saints added to their history by beating the Brisbane Broncos 18-14 to win the World Club Challenge. In July they produced a magnificent performance to beat arch rivals Bradford Bulls to reach the first Challenge Cup final at the new Wembley Stadium.

On May 5th, St Helens beat their close rivals Wigan Warriors 34-18 in the round of Super League matches played in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, as part of the Millennium Magic Weekend. They triumphed over Wigan again 19-12 earlier this year to stretch their winning streak over their arch rivals to 8 games, a phenomenal tally which has been unheard of in the modern era for the famous derby.

St Helens successfully defended the Challenge Cup, defeating Catalans Dragons 30-8 in the final at Wembley Stadium on August 25, 2007.