The Easter action continues as Saints host Castleford Tigers in Round 10 of the BetFred Super League on Monday (April 17, kick-off 3.00pm).
Good Friday (April 14) brought Saints an eighth consecutive Easter derby defeat against Wigan and a fifth defeat in nine Super League outings in 2017. Yet there was much to be optimistic about as the interim coaching team of Jamahl Lolesi, Sean Long and Derek Traynor saw their 12-man outfit push Wigan all the way before eventually slipping to a 29-18 loss.
By far the most eye-catching performer for Saints on the day was winger Regan Grace. The under-19s and reserves star was handed his Super League debut by the temporary coaching trio and showed immediately that he has the kind of scorching pace that had been so sorely lacking from the side for much of Keiron Cunningham’s two-and-a-half years at the helm. Bums on seats should be guaranteed for the second of the holiday double header and not least because Grace is again included in the 19-man selection and so is in line for an opportunity to back up what was a stunning debut.
Jonny Lomax is again unfit so expect Tommy Makinson to operate at fullback with Adam Swift switched to the right wing to allow Grace to play on his favoured left side outside Mark Percival. Ryan Morgan misses out through injury so the right centre berth looks to be a straight fight between the recalled Dominique Peyroux and Matty Fleming. Matty Smith and Theo Fages will play in the halves with the former in particular looking to have a greater impact against the league leaders than he did against his old club on Friday.
Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook is not named which might mean a start at loose forward for Morgan Knowles with Jon Wilkin continuing in that troublesome right hand second row position, but don’t rule out Peyroux for that role leaving the skipper to revert to the 13 slot. With James Roby still out it’s startling to think that only Tommy Lee and the excellent back-rower Zeb Taia seem obvious starters, though you would expect Kyle Amor to get a good chunk of playing time at prop after his 12th minute dismissal at the DW Stadium and his inpending probable suspension from the visit to Widnes on Friday (April 21). Adam Walker missed out on selection on Friday and so seems a naturally fresh set of legs to bring into the pack with Alex Walmsley, Luke Douglas, Greg Richards and Luke Thompson offering further front row options.
The Tigers come to town having lost just one of their opening nine Super League games, the latest of which was a 42-24 success over Wakefield Trinity. They could arrive in reasonably good health having built a 36-12 half-time lead over Trinity and strolled the second half while Saints were straining every sinew at Wigan. Zak Hardaker is back to the form that made him the Man Of Steel and the England fullback in 2015 while wingers Greg Eden and Greg Minikin top the Super League try-scoring charts with 12 and nine respectively, while halfback Luke Gale also has nine of his own. The Tigers’ halves are so good that former England regular Rangi Chase is getting used from the bench by coach Daryl Powell, who also has former Saint Michael Shenton and Jake Webster among his backline options.
Where Cas packs of the past might have been considered flaky this vintage can boast Grant Millington, Andy Lynch, Paul McShane, Mike McMeeken, Junior Moors and the excellent new addition for 2017 Jesse Sene-Lefao. This is a squad which can live up to the old ‘Classy Cas’ tag and Saints will need to be at their very best to get anything from this one. Given that, a continuation of the good work started on Friday and a competitive scoreline would have to be considered another positive building block for the new Saints regime.
2. Tommy Makinson 4. Mark Percival 5. Adam Swift 6. Theo Fages 7. Matty Smith 8. Alex Walmsley 10. Kyle Amor 12. Jon Wilkin 14. Luke Douglas 15. Adam Walker 16. Luke Thompson 17. Tommy Lee 18. Dominique Peyroux 19. Greg Richards 20. Morgan Knowles 22. Matty Fleming. 25. Ricky Bailey 28. Regan Grace 36. Zeb Taia
1. Zak Hardaker 2. Greg Minikin 3. Jake Webster 4. Michael Shenton 5. Greg Eden 6. Rangi Chase 7. Luke Gale 8. Andy Lynch 9. Paul McShane 10. Grant Millington 11. Oliver Holmes 12. Mike McMeeken 13. Adam Milner 14.Nathan Massey 15. Jesse Sene-Lefao 16. Ben Roberts 17. Junior Moors 18. Mat Cook 19 Gadwin Springer
Referee: Chris Campbell