Whie for many thoughts will turn to the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter finals this weekend, Saints face another test of their top four credentials when they visit Huddersfield Giants in a BetFred Super League meeting on Friday night (June 16, kick-off 8.00pm).
The fixture is a rearranged one, having originally been scheduled for the second Bank Holiday weekend in May when Huddersfield Town were involved in football’s Championship play-off final at Wembley. The move caused much consternation among rival fans and coaches as the Saints and Giants avoided having to play two games in the space of four days that weekend. It leaves both to fulfil a vital game in hand on the rest of the competition as the Giants’ recent revival has raised hopes that they may yet qualify for the Super 8s.
Saints coach Justin Holbrook makes just the one change from the 19 he selected ahead of last week’s 26-10 home win over Widnes Vikings. Indeed, it is hardly a change at all with Danny Richardson the man included ahead of Dominique Peyroux. Richardson missed out on Hobrook’s original Widnes selection but was drafted in to the match day 17 when Tommy Lee fell ill. He appeared off the bench late on, and will probably challenge Lee for the right to do so again here.
The rest of the side should be left unaltered, with the only other decision to make concerning which of Regan Grace and Adam Swift should occupy the left wing slot after the latter was again named in the 19. While on will start to complete a backline of Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Ryan Morgan, Mark Percival, Theo Fages and Matty Smith, the other is highly unlikely to make the 17. Richardson’s selection could again see Fages given a stint at hooker at some point to allow James Roby to take a breather, although Holbrook waited until the last 15 minutes when the game was won to rest the former England nine last week.
Fanciful speculation this week has linked Alex Walmsley to high-flying, actual rugby-playing flavour of the month Castleford Tigers. It’s almost certainly nonsense and so unlikely to distract the former Batley man from the job of leading the Saints pack alongside Roby with one of Kyle Amor or Luke Douglas completing the trio. Doulglas’ early guilty plea freed him up for this one after he was charged with Grade A dangerous contact in the win over Denis Betts’ side. Behind them Zeb Taia and Jon Wilkin occupy the second row slots with either Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Morgan Knowles or Luke Thompson in line to be named at 13. Two of those three will hit the bench, with one of Amor and Doulgas alongside either Lee or Richardson.
The Giants come in off the back of a thumping 56-12 win in Perpignan over Catalans Dragons. Star of that show was fullback Jake Mamo, whose four tries took his season’s tally to 12 in just eight Super League appearances. All of a sudden a side that relied all too heavily on Danny Brough now has genuine attacking weapons elsewhere in the side with Mamo and England winger Jermaine McGillvary.
Former Saint Lee Gaskell is included in Rick Stone’s 19 having missed the win in the south of France but another misses out as Jordan Turner tweaked a hamstring in an otherwise impressive display following his return from a short NRL stint with Canberra Raiders. Tom Symonds is a long-term absentee but a pack featuring Sebastine Ikahihifo, Sam Rapira, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Shannon Wakeman, Kruise Leeming and Dale Ferguson will present a stiff test for Saints’ inconsistent forward group. Saints have won only once at the home of an opponent this season when they beat the Dragons back in March, a record they need to improve desperately if they are to have any real hopes of making the playoffs.
The Giants are one of only two teams to visit the stadium formerly known as Langtree Park and avoid defeat this season. A 14-14 draw in April saw Stone’s men fight back from a 14-0 deficit to earn a point and signal the end of Keiron Cunningham’s 24-year association with his home town team. That came during a horrible run of form for the Giants which saw them win only two of their first nine league outings, and they would not avoid defeat again until a 31-12 surprising of Leeds Rhinos at the end of April. That result sparked an upturn in form, and they have won four of their last six, narrowly losing to Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Trinity also during that spell. The drubbing of Catalans followed a 44-4 thrashing of the admittedly hapless Warrington Wolves, but there is no doubt that this Giants side is a very different proposition from the one Saints met earlier in the year, especially on their own patch given Saints’ dismal away form.
For that reason it is very hard to predict a Saints victory with any confidence. There is hope. This is a Huddersfield side which, despite its recent resurgence, has shown throughout 2017 that it is capable of a spectacularly bad performance. But if Saints can’t control Brough and keep a lid on the scoring exploits of Mamo then it could be a very long evening.
- Jake Mamo, 2. Jermaine McGillvary, 3. Leroy Cudjoe, 4. Lee Gaskell, 5. Aaron Murphy, 6. Danny Brough, 8. Sam Rapira, 9. Ryan Hinchcliffe, 10. Shannon Wakeman, 12. Dale Ferguson, 14. Kruise Leeming, 15. Sebastine Ikahihifo, 16. Oliver Roberts, 17. Ukuma Ta’ai, 18. Paul Clough, 19. Nathan Mason, 30. Alex Mellor, 31. Adam O’Brien, 33. Martyn Ridyard.
- Jonny Lomax, 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 5. Adam Swift, 6. Theo Fages, 7. Matty Smith, 8. Alex Walmsley, 9. James Roby, 10. Kyle Amor, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Luke Douglas, 16. Luke Thompson, 17. Tommy Lee, 20. Morgan Knowles, 24. Danny Richardson, 28. Regan Grace, 36. Zeb Taia.
Referee: James Child