Yates’ verdict: Will the real St Helens stand up and be counted?

Tommy MakinsonTommy Makinson
Tommy Makinson
Saints beat Castleford Tigers 20-12 on Sunday but is was far from a vintage performance by the defending champions.

Will the real Saints stand up and be counted? That’s the question on the lips of fans after the defending champions have struggled to find anything like their best form in matches against Wakefield Trinity, Salford Red Devils and Castleford Tigers, even though they won two of the three outings.

Injuries and suspensions have played a major role in a dip of form but to their credit Kristian Woolf’s side have still remained at the top of the tree and will be hoping more of the walking wounded will return as quickly as possible to assist the title charge.

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It was a boost to have flying winger Tommy Makinson - absent for four games with a hamstring problem - back in the famous Red-Vee jersey against Castleford at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Sunday afternoon, especially as fellow wingman Regan Grace’s last season at St Helens is over due to a ruptured Achilles.

But the head coach said he ‘was a lot happier’ with St Helens’ display against Castleford than he had been seven days earlier at Salford, where his team were thumped 44-12.

It was the perfect response after Saints suffered a shock defeat a week ago, though they were far from convincing against a Tigers’ team for whom winger Bureta Faraimo scored all his side’s points thanks to a hat-trick of tries.

Curtis Sironen, Morgan Knowles and Joe Batchelor crossed for St Helens, with Tommy Makinson kicking four goals from five attempts.

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Woolf said: “We made some errors that put us under pressure, but I was a lot happier with us after the previous weekend’s game against Salford

“There was some good play by the visitors, especially in the second half when they hung in and made it hard for us to find points.

“There was an attitude in what we did which I liked. Our defence in the early exchanges showed we were going after our work.”

Woolf was happy to have his best players back in their favoured positions, adding: “We needed a bit more balance and James Roby is the best hooker in the game, so to have him in that position was important. I think that made a difference to us.

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“I also thought Jon Bennison was great against a very good kicking game from Danny Richardson.”

Castleford coach Lee Radford said: “The quality of execution let us down but I can’t fault the effort. I was petrified in the first 15 minutes. We grew into the game defensively.

“I think we have had the most sin-bins in the competition by some distance. We know how to weather that storm. I was very aware of how St Helens start a second period. It was important we needed to withstand their start.

“It was frustrating that we weren’t able to score those tries earlier. The good sides fatigue you.

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“For us to get anything out of the game we had to play to a higher standard. Eight out of 10 for effort, five out of 10 for execution.”

Radford also felt the number of games being played in quick succession was starting to have an effect.

He said: “I think we are seeing games now not of the highest quality. We have got another double-header before the end of the season and that’s going to have a massive knock-on effect.

“The coaches don’t produce the fixture list, so that’s something that needs to be looked at. Across the competition it is starting to fracture."

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St Helens: Bennison; Makinson, Hurrell, Davies, Hill; Welsby, Lomax; Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Sironen, Batchelor, Knowles.

Sin-bin: Sironen (47)

Interchanges: Lussick, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Wingfield, Bell.

Castleford: Watts; McShane, Griffin, Edwards, Mellor; Westerman, O’Brien; Richardson, Olpherts, Fonua, Blair, Faraimo, Eden.

Interchanges: Sutcliffe, Martin, Matagi, Feki.

Sin-bin: Watts (21) .

Referee: Chris Kendall.

Attendance: 10,144.

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