Yates’ verdict: Plenty of positives as St Helens steamroller Whitehaven in Challenge Cup

Kyle Amor scored for St Helens against his hometown club. Photo: Lewis Storey/Getty ImagesKyle Amor scored for St Helens against his hometown club. Photo: Lewis Storey/Getty Images
Kyle Amor scored for St Helens against his hometown club. Photo: Lewis Storey/Getty Images | Getty Images
A convincing return to winning ways and a rest for veteran skipper James Roby are just few things that will have pleased Kristian Woolf.

Cream always rises to the top as St Helens demonstrated by reaching the quarter final stages of the Betfred Challenge Cup at sun-kissed Whitehaven on Saturday.

Maybe, on reflection, the final 46-4 score line was a little harsh on the brave and battling Cumbrians who, like the cavalry in the famous 1940s movie starring Errol Flynn, ‘ died with their boots on.’

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In the end, however, the holders’ ruthlessness, professionalism and physical presence shone through like a beacon, even though the Championship side were left cursing their luck when Liam Cooper - on St Helens’ book earlier in his career - was carried off on a stretcher suffering from a nasty-looking neck injury and team-mate Tom Wilkinson (shoulder injury) followed suit in same period.

Until then, the hosts had more than matched Saints blow-for-blow but once the cup holders had weathered an early storm and quelled the underdogs’ spirit and enthusiasm, the result was never in any doubt.

At the same time, Kristian Woolf’s side will have drawn one or two positives from the game.

For a start veteran skipper James Roby, featuring in his 499th first team outing, was able to put up his feet and spent all but five minutes of the tie sitting on the bench, or pedalling away on the touchline training bike, before capping a cameo performance by scoring a late try.

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It took his tally to three so far this season - more than he achieved in both 2020-2021 - but just as important kept him out of the firing line for 85 minutes ahead of testing fixtures which are now on the horizon when his experience and know-how will be vital.

However, the biggest smile of the afternoon came from Cumbrian-born Kyle Amor - playing against his hometown club where he started his professional career in 2009 - when he wrapped up the first-half try scoring and more or less closed the door on any hopes of a shock result.

But Amor the Cumbrian and his team-mates will face a much tougher examination in the next round on the weekend of April 9-10, travelling to the south of France to lock horns with the Catalans Dragons, where Saints haven’t won since 2018.

The remainder of the draw is: Wakefield Trinity v Wigan Warriors, Hull KR v Castleford Tigers, Huddersfield v Hull FC.

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