Despite the low-key nature of Saints last game against Castleford, we equalled a record (lowest points in a Super League game) and lifted the league leaders shield following our 4-0 victory over top five chasing Castleford Tigers. It appears Eamonn McManus’ programme notes caused more drama than the game itself though as he stirred things up with comments regarding the choice of referee for the Challenge Cup Final. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch the game as it was during the midst of my stag do in Prague, but from people who did watch it, they commented that we looked like a tired outfit, which was expected following a draining Wembley game.
To restrict Castleford to no points, after they had had a week off and were desperate for the victory was an excellent defensive effort. The loss of Coote and Fages before the game would have obviously affected our attacking options and that appeared to be the case.
For Castleford, it’s looking unlikely they will make the top five now. They have an outside chance of doing it but are relying on Warrington, Salford or Hull dropping points in their next two games and them winning one or two games themselves. Their best chance is Hull losing both their games as one win would get them into 5th place, given theirs and Hull’s points difference.
Huddersfield had been in an awful run of form until their crucial victory at Hull last Friday, having lost their previous three Super League games prior to that and having only won once since their 55-2 win over Hull at Magic Weekend in May. There has been speculation about Simon Woolford’s future and whether he will still be at Huddersfield next year and if he did go, I’m not sure there would be too many tears at Huddersfield given their position in the table.
Whilst Huddersfield’s squad shouldn’t be challenging in the top 3 or 4, they have good enough players in the likes of McGilvray, Uate, Gaskell and Wardle to be further up the table than they are. Injuries have affected them slightly but their run of form since May has been awful, with some crushing losses during that period.
The win against Hull may well be enough to keep them up now even though they are not mathematically safe yet, and whilst they won’t be expected to take the points against us on Friday, they face a team that now has nothing to play for in Catalans Dragons at home in their final game which gives them a good chance if needed.
Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Regan Grace, Theo Fages, Danny Richardson, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Luke Thompson, Zeb Taia, LMS, Morgan Knowles, Kyle Amor, Dom Peyroux, Jack Ashworth, James Bentley, Lachlan Coote, Matty Costello
Darnell McIntosh, Jermaine McGillvary, Lee Gaskell, Paul Clough, 9. Kruise Leeming, Suaia Matagi, Alex Mellor, Michael Lawrence, Adam O’Brien, Ukuma Ta’ai, Jake Wardle, Tom Holmes, Adam Walne, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Sam Hewitt, Louis Senior, Jon Luke Kirby, Oliver Wilson, Chester Butler
Apart from long term absentee Matty Lees and Joseph Paulo, Saints will be pretty much at full strength this week with Lachlan Coote and Dom Peyroux returning to the side. You would imagine Matty Costello and Danny Richardson will be the ones to miss out from the 19, as Saints look to build some form and momentum before the Play Offs.
Head to Head
Last 6 games – Saints 5 wins, Huddersfield 1 win
Last meeting – St Helens 38 – 2 Huddersfield, Totally Wicked Stadium, Att. 9,527.
Saints record against Huddersfield is good, our last defeat coming after our Semi Final last year in a disappointing 16-12 defeat, when Huddersfield picked up their form to qualify for the Super 8’s. Apart from that they have been comfortable wins across the board for Saints, with our last victory being a comprehensive 38-2 victory at the Totally Wicked Stadium in June.
Lomax v Gaskell – Two Saints academy products – who once lined up in the halves for Saints in a Grand Final – go head to head this Friday. I’ve always been a fan of Gaskell. He didn’t kick on his 2nd season at Saints and eventually left, but he’s a very talented player and his awkward running style does cause teams problems. They will enjoy locking horns on Friday.
Grace v McGilvray – Two different style of wingers but both excellent for their sides. McGilvray is a powerful, bull dozer who causes problems with his strong kick returns especially. He’s tough to handle and Grace will need to be on form. Grace is quick and nimble and has had his best season to date for Saints, so will be looking to continue his good scoring record.
Whilst the result doesn’t really matter for Saints at this stage, they will be eager to build some form and momentum going into the Play Offs. In the Cup Final and last week, we scored just four points, which is a slight concern going into the final stages of the season as we will need our attack to click in the next few weeks before the Semi Final. It’s vital that Coote, Lomax, Fages and Roby start working together and building combinations, so they feel match hardened going into the Play Offs. Huddersfield is a nice game to build confidence. They have not been good this season and it is a chance for us to score some points and build some momentum. Saints by 24.