Salford Round 18 Preview Phil Jones 25th October 2020 2020 Match Previews, 2020 Season The Saints continued their unbeaten Super League run post lockdown with a comfortable 40-8 victory against a weakened Leeds team following their win in the cup final the week before. Saints never had to get out of 3rd gear as we pretty much dominated throughout and led 22-0 at half time following a Zeb Taia score and a hat trick of tries from the impressive Josh Simm, who piked up the man of the match award. Woolf will have a difficult selection headache come the big games later down the line when he ahs to select between Simm and Welsby for that Centre spot as both have done extremely well recently, even though Welsby has been playing out of position. The 2nd half wasn’t quite as good from Saints though as we took the foot off the pedal and staggered through a poor 15-20 minute period just after half time allowing Leeds back into the game. Further tries from Fages, Naiqama and Smith settled the tie though in a comfortable win. There were some excellent performances overall this week as an impressive ten players made over 100 metres – Makinson 270, Naiqama 112, Grace 160, Fages 101, Roby 153, Taia 128, Lees 128, Bentley 108, Coote 126 and Simm 164. Morgan Knowles topped the tackle count with 47, Bentley with 46, Roby 44, and Taia 42. Our Opponents Salford were touted as potential relegation candidates this season but once again have upset all the odds by reaching the Challenge Cup Final and causing several upsets along the way in Super League. Ian Watson has done an incredible job there as he rebuilds his side year after year, but the one thing consistent with Watson’s team is their identity. They play an open and attacking brand of rugby league and they are certainly exciting to watch. They are also a tough side defensively and whilst they may not be the best side in the competition, its very rare they switch off and don’t give you a tough game. They were very poor in their last match against Wigan though, losing 58-12 in a one-sided clash. They started poorly conceding in the 1st minute and were never really in the game from that moment. It’ll be interesting to see how they respond given such a short turnaround. 21 Man Squads St Helens Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Theo Fages, Alex Walmsley, Dom Peyroux, Morgan Knowles, Kyle Amor, Jack Ashworth, Joseph Paolo, Aaron Smith, James Bentley, Jack Welsby, Joe Batchelor, Josh Eaves, Josh Simm, Lewis Dodd, Matthew Foster, Tom Nisbet, Jake Wingfield, James Graham. Salford Red Devils Ed Chamberlain, Dan Sarginson, Krisnan Inu, Tui Lolohea, Lee Mossop, Joey Lussick, Gil Dudson, Pauli Pauli, Tyrone McCarthy, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Greg Burke, Luke Yates, Chris Atkin, Rhys Williams, Elliot Kear, Connor Jones, Oliver Roberts, Andy Ackers, Kallum Watkins, Tom Gilmore, Oliver Ashall-Bott Woolf has rested 7 of our stars as Coote, Grace, Lomax, Roby, Lees, Taia and LMS all drop out of the 21 man squad and a number of squad players and youngsters are named in the squad. Walmsley played just 30 minutes against Leeds which suggests he may play again and James Graham will most likely captain the side as he returns from a three game absence. You’d imagine Welsby will step in at full back, Nisbet will step in on the wing, Dodd will play in the halves, Josh Eaves and Aaron Smith will share the hooking duties, Peyroux will play in place of Taia and Ashworth will get a shot on the bench in place of LMS. Saints may decide to rest a few more such as Knowles and Bentley but they have been named in the 21-man squad. Whoever plays we’re likely to see some debuts though and its exciting we will see a number of academy products especially against a Salford team, who appear to be pretty strong based on the 21 named. Referee – Ben Thaler Kick Off – Monday 26th October, 5.30pm Venue – Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds Weather Forecast The current forecast is for light rain and a moderate breeze which will make the kicking game important along with a high completion rate. Head to Head Last 6 games – Saints 6 wins, Salford 0 wins. Last meeting – St Helens 48 – 8 Salford Saints have an excellent record against Salford having won the last 8 meetings against them, the last defeat coming in 2017 during the Cunningham era. Our last encounter feels like a long time ago now, pre coronavirus on the opening day of the season back in January. The Saints cruised to a very good 48-8 victory and looked unplayable at times. Alex Walmsley bagged a brace of tries along with Kevin Naiqama and Jack Welsby in a dominant display at the Totally Wicked Stadium. Key Battles Makinson v Inu – The two wingers are two of the best in the competition at finishing tries and returning the ball from kicks. Makinson in particular will be relied upon on Monday as he features in a young Saints side. This could be a great battle if both get the service they need. Dodd v Lolohea – The young Saints half back is an exciting academy product that many Saints fans have been clamouring for, and this is likely to be his chance providing there are no last-minute setbacks. In his brief appearances he’s shown glimpses of quality, including a try in his last appearance against Wakefield. His running and kicking game in particular will be one to keep an eye on. Lolohea has been given a new lease of life since his move from Leeds to Salford. Is running game and ability to release his three quarters in space makes him a very dangerous prospect for Saints. Prediction Difficult one to predict this one as Salford will want to perform better than they did on Friday and have therefore named a strong team. Saints have named a mix of reserve players, 1st teamers and academy products. Depending on how many more first teamers are rested could well be a crucial factor but I’m going to go for a positive outlook on this and predict Saints by 8.