Saints will look to build on a more promising performance and result when they entertain Warrington Wolves in a BetFred Super League Round 6 Super League clash this Friday night (March 24, kick-off 8.00pm).
Facing the ignominy of a place in the bottom two Saints spluttered back into life in the south of France last weekend, edging out Catalans Dragons 28-24 in an exciting contest full of the kind of rugby previously unseen during the 2017 campaign. Now they return home to face a Warrington side which is somehow still winless in five Super League outings and under real pressure to keep realistic hopes of a top four finish alive even at this early stage of the year.
The one change to Keiron Cunningham’s 19-man squad selection sees the much anticipated return of Matty Smith to the fold. The former Wigan man broke his leg inside the first 40 minutes of his pre-season debut against Widnes Vikings but could be in line to make another competitive debut for Saints having done so twice in previous spells. There is a certain amount of pressure on Smith who comes into a still struggling side at a time when Cunningham has been bemoaning the lack of a senior halfback. Smith should certainly add a bit more in the way of organisation and leadership in attack, and in all likelihood his return means an end to the need for Jon Wilkin to carry on dodging the fans’ brickbats for his efforts in the halfback position.
The skipper will probably go straight back into the loose forward role with Morgan Knowles not included having picked up an unspecified knock in the win over the Dragons. That means Dominique Peyroux and Louie McCathy-Scarsbrook doing battle to see which of them partners Zeb Taia in the second row behind a front three of the in-form Alex Walmsley, James Roby and one of Luke Douglas, Kyle Amor or Adam Walker. Tommy Lee, Jack Ashworth and Greg Richards make up the rest of the pack options for Cunningham with Luke Thompson joining Knowles on the injury list.
Jonny Lomax continues to miss out through injury so Tommy Makinson will have another opportunity to show his class as a defensive fullback. All of which all but guarantees an unchanged three-quarter line of Jack Owens (fresh from his game-winning stroll over the line in Perpignan), Ryan Morgan, Mark Percival and Adam Swift. A change of style last weekend brought huge dividends to all the aforementioned who impressed when they were given their opportunities. Theo Fages will again look to conjure up the sort of magic which produced that winning try for Owens and perhaps leave the bulk of the kicking duties to Smith. The former England half may also take over the goal-kicking role despite Percival’s crucial four from five effort in France.
Warrington coach Tony Smith will be relieved to have Kevin Brown available after he was knocked cold during last week’s dismal defeat at Leigh Centurions. He may partner Kurt Gidley in the halves with Stefan Ratchford returning to the squad and perhaps holding down a slot at fullback. Tom Lineham is suspended for his wild elbow on Leigh’s Ryan Hampshire during the 22-8 defeat while Ryan Atkins also misses out. Toby King may start at centre, with Matty Russell on the wing and Jack Johnson missing out.
Chris Hill returned against the Centurions and will again be the key man for Wire in the pack, alongside Ashton Sims, Daryl Clark and Mike Cooper. Joe Westerman locks the scrum behind a likely second row pairing of Jack Hughes and either Ben Westwood or former Saint Andre Savelio. Watch out for Brad Dwyer in relief of Clark at hooker, while Harvey Livett is another promising youngster who has gained experience in the halves during what has been a difficult spell for the Wolves. There may be some long term gain from their short term pain.
For now though Saints should start favourites for this one. Their record at home to Warrington is not as great is it once was before the move from Knowsley Road but generally speaking Warrington do not enjoy the trip to St Helens. Their current run of form will not aid their confidence while Saints’ encouraging display in Perpignan last time out should have them raring to go again. Smith’s addition is further reason to be cheerful for Saints fans whose only fear must be the lingering prospect of a return to the safety first approach which saw them win only once in their first four league outings.
- Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 5. Adam Swift, 6. Theo Fages, 7. Matty Smith, 8. Alex Walmsley, 9. James Roby, 10. Kyle Amor, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Luke Douglas, 15. Adam Walker, 17. Tommy Lee, 18. Dominique Peyroux, 19. Greg Richards, 21. Jack Owens, 23. Jack Ashworth, 36. Zeb Taia.
- Stefan Ratchford, 3. Rhys Evans, 5. Matthew Russell, 6. Kevin Brown, 7. Kurt Gidley, 8. Chris Hill, 9. Daryl Clark, 10. Ashton Sims, 12. Jack Hughes, 13. Joe Westerman, 14. Mike Cooper, 15. Brad Dwyer, 17. Dominic Crosby, 18. Andre Savelio, 20. Toby King, 23. Joe Philbin, 26. Jack Johnson, 28. Harvey Livett, 34. Ben Westwood.
Referee: James Child