Saints will look to press on with their charge towards semi-final qualification when they host Hull FC in a Betfred Super League Super 8s Round 2 meeting on Friday night (August 11, kick-off 8.00pm).
Justin Holbrook’s side climbed into the top four for the first time this season with a well earned 26-12 victory at Castleford Tigers last week. It was a second consecutive away success after having won only once away from home all season until the end of July. It leaves them within striking distance of this week’s opponents and with a better points difference any win in this one will take Saints above Lee Radford’s side.
Until the expected introduction of Ben Barba in September most of the Saints team picks itself. Jonny Lomax looks like being the one most under threat from Barba not because of his form which has been excellent in recent weeks, but because he just happens to have the misfortune to play in the same position as Barba. For now Lomax will continue at fullback with Tommy Makinson, Ryan Morgan, Mark Percival and Regan Grace making up the three-quarter line. Adam Swift again misses out on selection for the 19-man squad while Jake Spedding is included in place of Tommy Lee. That may or may not tell us something about Swift’s future although he did pen a new two-year deal earlier this year.
If there is a doubt about any position in the starting line-up it is at scrum half. Matty Smith came off the bench at Castleford to replace the injured Danny Richardson and was instrumental in Saints’ win, showing no ill effects from the ruptured eyelid that had kept him out for five weeks previously. Yet Richardson did nothing wrong before his exit just before half-time and may be given another opportunity to start alongside Theo Fages in the halves.
With Luke Douglas still missing with a knee injury there is a slightly makeshift look to Saints’ front row. Yet Luke Thompson was one of the pack’s best performers against Daryl Powell’s side while Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook also started at prop and let nobody down. Look for those two to start again with Alex Walmsley and Kyle Amor offering the impact off the bench. Hooker James Roby was the best player on the pitch at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle last time out and with Lee not selected will look to go the full 80 in this one. Zeb Taia and the resurgent Dominique Peyroux should start at second row with Jon Wilkin at loose forward. Morgan Knowles can cover all of that trio while Matty Lees will again look to make the jump from the initial 19-man squad to the matchday 17 for the first time.
Hull FC started their Super 8s campaign with a 32-18 win over Salford Red Devils last week. They will welcome back Marc Sneyd for this one as well as prop Josh Bowden, but the impressive Mark Miniciello misses out. It’s a squad packed with talent with Jamie Shaul, Mahe Fonua, Carlos Tuimavave, Albert Kelly and Sneyd in the backs and a formidable pack including Liam Watts, Scott Taylor, Gareth Ellis and Sika Manu. The black and whites may have one eye on the Challenge Cup final coming up in a fortnight but with top four qualification still not a certainty they’ll have to balance that with the need to pick up enough Super 8 wins to make sure they are in the shake-up at the end.
This will be a fourth meeting between the two of 2017 after Hull FC claimed a 24-10 win at the KCom in March which Saints answered with a crushing 45-0 demolition job at the Magic Weekend in Newcastle in May. Hull visited Saints in early July and were edged out 19-12 although in truth Saints were very good value for that success on the night. Something similar here will represent a huge step towards the top four spot that looked so unlikely just a few short weeks ago.
1. Jonny Lomax 2. Tommy Makinson 3. Ryan Morgan 4. Mark Percival 6. Theo Fages 7. Matty Smith 8. Alex Walmsley 9. James Roby 10. Kyle Amor 12. Jon Wilkin 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook 16. Luke Thompson 18. Dominique Peyroux 20. Morgan Knowles 24. Danny Richardson 26. Jake Spedding 28. Regan Grace 32. Matty Lees 36. Zeb Taia
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 10. Liam Watts 13. Gareth Ellis 14. Jake Connor 15. Chris Green 16. Jordan Thompson 17. Danny Washbrook 19. Steve Michaels 21. Sika Manu 22. Josh Bowden 28. Brad Fash
Referee: James Child