Saints will look to bounce back from an increasingly desperate start to the season when they visit Hull FC in a BetFred Super League Round Four clash this Friday night (March 10, kick-off 8.00pm).
Keiron Cunningham’s side turned in an inept performance in losing at home to Wakefield Trinity last time out, an encore to the loss at newly promoted Middle Eight fodder Leigh Centurions a week previously. Now they visit one of the form sides of 2016 and current Challenge cup holders coming in off the back of a 40-point hammering of an hitherto improving Huddersfield Giants side.
Cunningham promised changes for this one in the wake of the 16-12 loss to Chris Chester’s side, and changes we have got. Just not the changes we might have expected or preferred, with Danny Richardson losing his place in the 19-man squad.
Also out this week is Luke Thompson as another Luke, Douglas, returns from a thumb injury. Thompson’s demotion is not totally surprising or alarming, but there is a place for forgotten man Greg Richards. The other man to miss out on the 19 from last week’s selection is Calvin Wellington.
Jonny Lomax remains out through the injury suffered at Leigh, and will again be covered by Tommy Makinson, meaning that Jack Owens will probably continue on the wing in a three-quarter line that does have some promise in the shape of Ryan Morgan, Mark Percival and Adam Swift. In the halves, Theo Fages should continue and the only decision is whether to replace Richardson with either Jon Wilkin or Tommy Lee. The latter’s employment as a half completely defeats the object of his arrival at the club which was to give James Roby less of a workload, while the former is where the smart money is considering that he has been playing the position in all but name to this point in any case.
Zeb Taia should earn his first start with a decision to be made about whether his second row partner should be Dominic Peyroux or Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook. For sheer huff and puff I’d plump for McCarthy-Scarsbrook over Peyroux.
As discussed Hull are coming in off the back of a fine win over the Giants, and sit fourth in the table having beaten Wakefield on the opening weekend before a narrow home setback against Catalans Dragons. Marc Sneyd runs the show from halfback, busying himself ramming negative comments down the throats of black and whites legends of the past, while in Jamie Shaul, Mahe Fonua, Carlos Tuimavave, Albert Kelly and co they have a back-line that cause damage to any Super League defence.
Man Of Steel Danny Houghton leads the pack, with ex-Wigan man Scott Taylor, Mark Miniciello and Gareth Ellis in tow, though Liam Watts will miss out after picking up a four-game ban for a dangerous tackle on Dragons forward Jason Baitieri in that home loss to Laurent Frayssinous’ side. In the file marked Any Other Business Dean Hadley has joined Wakefield on loan and so will not feature for the East Yorkshire outfit in this one.
Nevertheless if Hull FC want this one enough it would appear that Saints are there for the taking. Saints barely ever win in the city of Hull regardless of their form, and a showing anything like we have seen from them so far all but guarantees another defeat going into equally tough assignments with Catalans Dragons and Warrington. The one note of optimism here is the current league structure, which does not force Hull to treat this as a must-win game.. whereas for Saints, it’s very quickly becoming one.
1. Jamie Shaul, 2. Mahe Fonua, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 5. Fetuli Talanoa, 6. Albert Kelly, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 12. Mark Minichiello, 13. Gareth Ellis, 14. Jake Connor, 15. Chris Green, 16. Jordan Thompson, 17. Danny Washbrook, 19. Steve Michaels, 21. Sika Manu, 22. Josh Bowden, 29. Masi Matongo.
1. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 5. Adam Swift, 6. Theo Fages, 8. Alex Walmsley, 9. James Roby, 10. Kyle Amor, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Luke Douglas, 15. Adam Walker (pictured), 17. Tommy Lee, 18. Dominique Peyroux, 19. Greg Richards, 20. Morgan Knowles, 21. Jack Owens, 23. Jack Ashworth, 36. Zeb Taia.
Referee: Phil Bentham