Saints legend Paul Sculthorpe previews the Betfred Super League clash with Leeds Rhinos at the Totally Wicked Stadium at 8pm on Friday 28 July.
It’s been a tough old week for anyone involved with St Helens after that bitterly-disappointing defeat to Leigh Leopards in the Betfred Challenge Cup semi final.
Those who read my column last week will know this was far from a shock result though. Leigh have been the form team in Betfred Super League for a while and are sit second on the table for a a reason.
Despite that, I did back the Saints and truly thought we’d be running out at Wembley on August 12.
A Joey Lussick try got us off to a flyer and into the break 6-0 up. However, the second half was a different story as we found ourselves 12-6 down until the 77th minute when Jonny Lomax forced his way over. That try in the corner left Tommy Makinson a tough conversion to no doubt take the game into extra-time and keep the Wembley dream alive – but sadly it wasn’t to be.
Saints boss Paul Wellens was magnanimous in defeat, congratulating the Leopards for making their first Wembley final in over 50 years. He refused to criticise the officials for Leigh’s second try, during which Tee Ritson looked to be shoved out of the way by Tom Briscoe allowing Zak Hardaker the opportunity to dive on the ball which ultimately won them the game.
He did, however, have his say – and hasn’t held back – on John Asiata. Leigh’s number 13 was involved in tackles that have injured four players, two of which won’t play again this season.
Alex Walmsley and Agnatius Paasi are the duo who won’t feature again this term after suffering significant knee injuries. In my opinion, these tackles were completely reckless and need to be outlawed before more players suffer the same consequences as the Saints front rowers… or worse.
Morgan Knowles and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook also sustained injuries. Morgs will hopefully make a speedy recovery to face Leeds on Friday, but LMS looks set for a couple of weeks on the sidelines.
This isn’t ideal as Wello already has selection woes having lost hooker Joey Lussick with immediate effect to his native Australia where he’ll play for NRL side Parramatta.
Joey made 52 appearances in the Red V, scoring 11 tries and seven goals. He’s a good bloke and I personally wish him well on his move.
His replacement will be St George Illawarra utility Moses Mbye – a 29-year-old former Queensland State of Origin star who has played 194 NRL games. He’ll join the team this week, giving the coach some much-needed options.
So, the Challenge Cup has gone for another year as far as Saints is concerned, and all focus now shifts to closing down leaders Catalans Dragons in our bid to win another Betfred Super League title.
We’re currently sat in fourth behind the Dragons, Leopards and Wigan Warriors by six, four and two points respectively – but we have a game in hand.
Following two consecutive defeats, Wello will be after a big response this Friday at the Totally Wicked Stadium as we take on the equally inconsistent Leeds Rhinos.
As with most games in the Betfred Super League these days, I don’t know what we’re going to get from the visitors come Friday. On paper, they have a strong squad of players and have had their moments this season, but in practice they’re far too hit or miss.
Saints are missing a number of first choice players, but never write these lads off. I believe we have more than enough quality to topple the Rhinos.
I’ll go for a big Saints win by 16 points or more.