St Helens boss Paul Wellens takes positives despite triple blow in Catalans Dragons defeat
St Helens suffered a triple kick in the teeth on Thursday night when Lady Lucky wasn’t exactly on their side at the Totally Wicked Stadium..
Not only did they surrender two crucial points to Betfred Super League title rivals Catalan Dragon, but long-serving hooker James Roby and centre Mark Percival both failed head assessment tests during 80 minutes of non-stop and breath-taking action. Both are ruled out of Saturday’s Challenge Cup semi-final showdown against Leigh Leopards at Warington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium.
It also leaves head coach Paul Wellens keeping one eye on the treatment room and hoping first choice players Tommy Makinson, Joe Batchelor and Curtis Sironen will have shrugged off injuries which have kept them on the sidelines in recent weeks.
But despite the 14-12 home defeat against the battle-hardened French club, Wellens still had time to praise the overall performance of his players who had won eight of their previous nine matches.
Saints certainly gave it their best shots, particularly in a second-half when they lay siege in Catalans territory and could have stolen the points with the last attack of the night as an intended pass from Willie Hopoate to Konrad Hurrell flew into touch inches from the tryline.
At the same time, credit should also be given to the French league leaders, who maybe had moments of good fortune but their defensive unit was as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar and they were rewarded for their tenacity.
Wellens said: "We’ve got the Challenge Cup semi-final next weekend and we’ll have 17 blokes on the field who will give their best efforts.
"I thought it was fantastic the way the players turned up for each other and on another day had we nailed that final pass the result would have fallen in our favour.
"I told the players to be disappointed by the outcome but keep their heads up because there’s a lot of things I really liked and we showed all the ingredients why we have been a champion side for so long."
Adam Keighran’s penalty put the visitors into an early two point lead and then added the extras to Tom Johnstone’s length-of-the-field try before Saints hit back with a Percival try and goal to cut the interval deficit to 8-6.
Steve McNamara’s boys struck again five minutes into the second-half through Matt Ikuvalu’s try and Keighran’s goal but the champions set up a nerve-shredding finale when Lewis Dodd crossed the whitewash and substitute Joey Lussick landed the goal.