Drawing Castleford in the Cup doesn’t hold the same amount of fear that it did in 2017. Saints showed signs in the Semi Final last season that we’d managed to close the gap in competitiveness between the two sides, and but for a horrible 60 seconds at the end, it would have been us progressing to Old Trafford.
Saints faced Castleford in the opening round of the season, and it was a sign of how the attacking prowess has shifted back down the M62 when Saints triumphed 46-6. With Saints averaging nearly 33 points per game and conceding under 12, it shows just how much work Saints have done over the winter to turn the tide. Castleford meanwhile are only averaging 20 points per game and on averaging conceding nearly as many. So what’s changed? The loss of Zak Hardaker has been pivotal. The way teams attack in Super League has shifted towards the importance of a full back who is able to chime in to the attacking line and gives their team an instant attacking edge on the overlap created from coming round the back of the line – you only have to see how our attack has transformed with Barba at 1 to see that. But is there more to it? Teams seem to have become accustomed to what Castleford throw at them, and they seem unable so far to come up with a confident Plan B that they’ll be able to execute. With the injury this week to key man Luke Gale, it’s going to make their task even harder over the coming weeks.
Barba must play
Whilst Castleford have lost Gale to injury, Saints had a scare of their own with Barba being taken to hospital after suffering a potentially serious injury. Luckily for us, its proven just to be a scare and Ben hopes to be able to take his place in the side next week.
I’ve read discussion since about resting Barba regardless next week – whilst that may be seen as eminently sensible considering the Castleford tie to follow, the purely selfish part of me wants to see the wizardry of our favourite Aussie son as much as possible. Saints fans will be flocking to see him in his pomp – they aren’t paying to see him sat in the stands, nor are Saints paying him premium money for the same. If Barba is to be tempted back to the NRL at the end of the season, then let’s get our moneys worth. Injury can strike at any time, and if we start worrying about that, then we’ll always be second guessing team selection. That said Barba missed the Hull game through illness and Saints coped admirably… so if there is any sort of doubt, then leave him out.
Thursday Night Rugby
We’re not fans of Thursday rugby, never have been and never will be, but the game next Thursday may actually be a blessing. The game next Thursday may well be Saints lowest crowd of the season – with the club being in a similar situation to Sunday games in that ‘its a school night’ with hospitality harder to sell, but what it will do is give us a nine day turn around before the cup game, giving Holbrook the chance to give the boys a few days off before getting stuck back in to training on Monday morning.
We’re unashamedly biased – what more can you expect from a Saints supporters site? We tweet with our hearts on our sleeve with Redvee glasses on – and unlike other stuff you’ll read, we’re simply a couple match going Saints fans/mates who travel home and away, enjoy the game and want to share the experiences with you – which means all of our coverage is based on what we see live at the ground, whilst occasionally having chance to look at a terrible big screen that has a lower definition than the black and white TV in your Nan’s back room! You’ll see from our videos that we have no delusions of grandeur, Tweets and updates are given instantly – at home games from the back of W3, at away games often from terrible vantage points, and our Fan Reaction and Preview show is filmed unscripted so that it’s like being down the pub discussing the game. We don’t have the benefit of ten Sky cameras, and -numerous replays in 4k looking for an indiscretion so yes we’ll be wrong at times.. and that’s what makes our Twitter and Instant Fan Reaction videos so popular… agree or disagree, its opinions from a couple fans at the game supporting the side giving instant fan coverage. If you choose to watch from home, then this isn’t a dig – but just something to remember when you have the benefit of the hindsight behind you to make a dig at us!
One such incident last night was the Lees Red Card last night. From seeing it live and even from the ‘big screen’, it looked like shoulder first… only on returning home where we able to see he connected with cheekbone before shoulder. Quite a few of the journalists in the Press area, the club’s official social media, as well as Justin Holbrook to our rear got the same view and had a similar opinion – which would explain Justin’s post match interview comments. I’m sure if asked during the week whether he’s changed his mind, Justin will be humble as us to say he got it wrong. Was it malicious? Not for me. The intent wasn’t there and as a first offence we hope the RFL disciplinary take this in to account and Leeds is dealt with at the lower end of the scale.
3 out of 3? Fingers crossed
The women take on Featherstone Rovers this Sunday at 2:30pm at Thatto Heath, hoping to make it 3 out of 3 and stay at the top of the table. Mark Brennan will be delighted not just by the results but the way his charges have adapted to life in Super League, with a free flowing Saints style backed up by some sharp defence demolishing the Bulls at Odsal last week. You’ll be hearing a lot more this season of Faye Gaskin, Roxy Mura and Tara Jones, but this is a real team effort, and there was plenty of youngsters who are developing in to top players. With big games looming against Wigan and Leeds, they’re certainly posing some selection headaches for the coach.