A New Dawn At Saints
Keiron Cunningham’s 24-year association with Saints came to an end when the Head Coach parted company with the club on Monday (April 10). It came in the wake of a jaw-droppingly desperate second half showing at home to Huddersfield Giants in which Saints conspired to turn a 14-0 half-time lead into a 14-14 draw. It was a result which left Saints in the relative abyss of seventh in the Super League table and left Cunningham with no future at the ludicrously named Totally Wicked Stadium.
Now the interim coaching team of Sean Long, Jamahl Lolesi and Derek Traynor lead Saints into battle at the DW Stadium in the traditional Good Friday derby with Wigan. Under 19s star Regan Grace has been drafted into the squad as cover should Jonny Lomax’s creaking body not hold up, while Dominique Peyroux is the first of the regulars to fall victim to the new regime. It’s too soon to expect too much to change in terms of either results or style for Saints, but slowly the wheels are turning.
It might be considered a good time to play Wigan who have still not managed a win in Super League since beating Warrington 38-16 a month ago. Their last outing saw them handled 27-10 by current top dogs Castleford Tigers but, with all of Anthony Gelling, Joe Burgess, Michael McIlorum and Sean O’Loughlin taking part in the traditional Wigan pastime of returning for the derby, Shaun Wane’s outfit looks a little stronger than it has for a few weeks. Even without John Bateman, Dom Manfredi, Sam Tomkins and Tony Clubb Wigan should edge it against a Saints side looking to take baby steps on the road to recovery, but a points fest between two defensively solid sides looks unlikely.
Castleford To Power On
With Good Friday a day for derbies Castleford Tigers might consider their good fortune at being geographically closer to Wakefield Trinity than they are to say…..Hull FC or Wigan. Having lost only once in Super League all season Daryl Powell’s side will again be fancied when they take on Trinity at the Mend-A-Hose-Jungle. Only Salford Red Devils have got the better of the Tigers so far in 2017 and a win here over Chris Chester’s side could open up a significant gap over Leeds and Hull FC in particular as they play each other.
Yet as much as the Tigers are fancied Trinity are no longer the walk-over they have been in years gone by. They sit fifth in the table with five wins from their eight outings so far. The losses have come against Leeds, Huddersfield and Hull FC and of those, only the Rhinos got past the Belle Vue outfit with any degree of comfort. Former Tigers Liam Finn and Craig Huby will look to get one over on their old club but more importantly, help earn the win that would take Trinity into the top four. With nearly half of the regular season gone that would be a noteworthy achievement for a club which just two years ago managed only three wins before the split.
Cas will be without the influential Michael Shenton who injured his back in the warm-up prior to that victory over Wigan, so Grant Millington comes in to Powell’s 19-man selection. There are also doubts over Oliver Holmes and Junior Moors although both are named. The Tigers currently dominate the try-scoring statistics in Super League, with Greg Eden leading the league with 11 and both Greg Minikin and Luke Gale his closest challengers with nine each. Overall the Tigers have crossed 54 times in their eight games in 2017 so far, 13 more than the next best effort from Salford who have played an extra game. Defensively Wakefield are giving up just shy of 20 points per game so far and if they can hold the Tigers to something around that figure it will have been a good effort that will give them a reasonable shot at springing a surprise in this Adam Watene trophy clash.