Salford (H) – Round 6 preview Phil Jones 15th May 2021 2021 Season The Saints reached the Semi Final of the Challenge Cup following a 23-18 victory over the Huddersfield Giants in a tightly contested match the Headingley. Saints found themselves behind 12-10 at half time following a pretty average performance in the 1st half where our discipline and ball control let us down. Our defence was fairly solid throughout the game and kept us in touch in the game, but we simply gave Huddersfield too much ball in that 1st half. The 2nd half was much better though as we upped the intensity and started brightly. Regan Grace bagged himself a hat trick to cap off a fine performance and whilst it was tight at the end, we deserved to go through in the end. Saints now face off against Hull FC in the Semi Final following their 20-12 victory over the Wigan Warriors in a match they dominated. Hull were impressive in their victory, so it was arguably the worst draw we could’ve had. It also potentially sets up another final with Warrington should we progress, as they drew against Castleford in the other Semi Final, but we have a massive task against Hull FC 1st, who look much improved under Hodgson. Interestingly, Woolf has made reference to the 6 agains and speed of the play the ball in a recent article and stated he believes we are being “refereed to a different standard” as figures point to Saints having almost half the number of fast play the balls than our opponents. It is interesting that this has been highlighted and may explain why we are not seeing the benefits of our dominant carries from the forwards. I found it baffling against Leigh that they had more 6 agains then we did, even though our forwards were on top for most of the game. Our attack has been blunt this year but there’s no doubt we rely on quick ruck speed and broken play to create chances, which we have seen little of. Hopefully highlighting this will help improve refereeing standards and the game in general as I agree with Woolf regarding the speed of the ruck and the 6 agains causing issues currently. This Monday, we face Salford Red Devils, who we have already faced this season in the opener which we won 29-6, but this game has a special meaning to it, as it will be the 1st time supporters will be able to attend since the game came to a halt back in March 2020. The last time fans were able to attend the TWS was against Huddersfield on March 6th 2020 – over 14 months ago – and it was a game which we lost 12-10. At the time, I think we’d have been quite happy to give the TWS a wide berth for a while following a dull and dreary performance, but how little we knew at the time. It will be great to be back this Monday, even with the restrictions that are in place, as I am one of the lucky people who have been successful in the ballot so am free to attend. I feel for those that haven’t been successful, but hopefully you won’t have long to wait as Hull FC and Warrington are quickly on the horizon. It will probably feel quite emotional being back after such a long time and one thing is for sure we won’t take games for granted again. I’m sure the players cannot wait to hear the roar of the crowd as they come out for the 1st time in front of 4,000 die hard supporters and that will no doubt be a moment we will all remember. Fingers crossed Saints give us a performance to remember aswell. Our Opponents Salford have had a fairly poor start to the season and currently sit 10th on the ladder, with just one win from their opening five games. There has been a lot of change at Salford over the last few seasons and the biggest change this off season was arguably their coach. You can see things aren’t quite as familiar at Salford this season and it may take them time to adapt. Whether Marshall can get the same out of them that Watson did remains to be seen. They have been competitive in their last three games though, beating Leigh comfortably 34-8 and they narrowly lost to Castleford in both the Super League & the Challenge Cup, so generally they do compete quite well so it won’t be an easy one for Saints this week. They also still have good individual players in Ken Sio, Kallum Watkins, Tui Lolohea and Kevin Brown who can cause problems so we will need to defend well to win the game. St Helens Lachlan Coote, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Joel Thompson, Morgan Knowles, Sione Mata’utia, LMS, Kyle Amor, Agnatius Paasi, Aaron Smith, Jack Welsby, Joe Batchelor, Josh Simm, Lewis Dodd, Dan Norman, Ben Davies. Josh Simm for Tommy Makinson is the only change for this weeks squad. Saints will be without Tommy Makinson for 2-4 weeks as he nurses a foot injury. It’s nothing too serious according to Woolf, but Saints will be hoping he returns before the Challenge Cup Semi Final. He joins Matty Lees (due back around July) and James Bentley (should return around August / September time) on the casualty list, as both of those players recover from long term injuries. In more positive news, LMS will not miss this weeks game as he passed the head test protocols this week following his head injury in the Huddersfield game and Morgan Knowles will play his 1st game of the season following thumb surgery in pre-season. Welsby will likely step off the bench and back into the Centre position in Makinson’s absence and Knowles will probably start on the bench with Paasi, Amor and one of Dodd / Smith you’d imagine. Referee – TBC Kick Off – 7.45pm Venue – Totally Wicked Stadium Weather Forecast The early forecast suggest light showers throughout the day but should remain warm. Head-to-Head Last 6 games – Saints 5 wins, Salford 1 win. Last meeting – Salford 6 – 29 St. Helens, Emerald Headingley Stadium. The Saints have a good record against Huddersfield having won 5 of the last 6 games. Our last encounter was the opener of the 2021 season as we comfortably won 29-6. Our only defeat in the last five was last season when we played a near reserve team in a 12-10 defeat. Prediction Saints haven’t really clicked in attack this year for a number of reasons, but hopefully with Morgan Knowles returning and more minutes for Coote, that should boost our attacking options. Hopefully a home crowd will boost Saints and give them extra motivation to do well. Salford aren’t easy beats, but our pack should be far too strong on the night. Saints by 16.