Can Saints Banish Bad Memories?
The last time Saints visited the AJ Bell Stadium they were on the receiving end of an unseemly rattling, going down 44-10 in a game which featured Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook as a makeshift centre. It was the type of calamity which popped up intermittently all throughout Saints’ 2016 campaign, a principal reason why Keiron Cunningham’s side had to settle for an away semi-final in September.
In the wake of that disappointing campaign this is a much changed Saints outfit, with no fewer than five new faces coming in and a preposterous 12 players heading out of the exit in the lead up to the 2017 season. With Matty Smith back in the halfback position following a lengthy lay-off Saints are starting to look the part once more as shown in recent victories at Catalans Dragons and at home to Warrington last weekend. Another win here would instil more belief that they can challenge again under Cunningham who not so long ago seemed to be staring at the door marked ‘Do One’.
Yet it won’t be easy against a Salford side who have themselves managed a great deal of improvement in the early part of this term. They are the only team to beat Castleford so far in 2017 and have also earned victories over Warrington and Huddersfield. The losses have been narrow, but in losing to Wakefield, Leeds and Wigan Ian Watson’s side have shown that, like Saints, they are a work in progress capable of bouts of inconsistency. Salford currently sit fifth in the table, one place above Saints having played a game more. The winner of this one can continue their assault on a top four place while the loser will be left clinging on to a Super 8s berth just seven games in.
Brough Indiscipline To Cost Giants
A trip to league leading Castleford Tigers was going to be hard enough for Huddersfield Giants this Friday night (March 31) but it looks like a lost cause following Danny Brough’s suspension earlier this week. The Giants half was caught up in a spat with Leeds back rower Carl Ablett in Huddersfield’s 28-12 defeat to the Rhinos last weekend and has been hit with a £300 fine and a one match suspension.
It’s a loss that Rick Stone’s side can ill afford against he in-form Tigers. Though Brough has yet to get across the line for a try this term he has eight assists, has almost four times as many attacking kicks as any other Giants player and has kicked 12 goals. Most of what Huddersfield do goes through Brough, and responsibility for all of that is likely to pass on to Ryan Brierley. The former Leigh man is a fine player but lacks the all around skills of Brough, relying instead on his pace and support play. Up against a Cas halfback group that is good enough to reduce the returning Rangi Chase to a bit-part, the Giants are likely to fall short.
Meanwhile Castleford look set to continue their impressive early season form. Losing to Salford a fortnight ago appears to have been a blip, as Daryl Powell’s side jumped straight back on the horse with a 43-26 win over Catalans Dragons last weekend. Powell noted afterwards that his side’s defence needs to improve if they are going to sustain their challenge, but they should have more than enough in hand against a Giants side that was hardly pulling up trees even before it lost the talismanic Brough.