The New….Old Saints
Saints new coaching team of Jamahl Lolesi, Sean Long and Derek Traynor have only had two games in charge but already things are starting to look up. A battling display at Wigan saw the 12-man Saints push their friendly neighbours all the way before Easter Monday brought an unlikely win over the league-leading Castleford Tigers. It may or may not be too late for Saints to make a run for the top four but at least now there is renewed optimism that the new Saints can be more like the old Saints, before The Grind kicked in.
This week they visit a Widnes Vikings side which has only won one of its first 10 Super League games and sits bottom of the pile. Dennis Betts’ side will stay rooted to the foot of the table whatever happens on Friday night (April 21) as they are three points behind both Huddersfield Giants and Leigh Centurions. Yet a win here would offer their fans some hope that they can dig themselves out of a situation which currently looks like leading to a relegation scrap. Defensively they have been awful, conceding an average of 29.7 points per game while at the other end of the field they have managed to post just 15.1 points per game. A vast improvement is required in both departments if they are to beat a Saints side slowly getting back its identity. It doesn’t look likely, but then neither did that Saints victory over the Tigers on Easter Monday.
Warrington On The Up But On The Edge
Widnes started the Easter period with a bottom of the table clash with their Cheshire rivals Warrington Wolves. Tony Smith’s side ground out an underwhelming 19-10 win on that occasion, but it was nevertheless a win which offered a little breathing space between the Wolves and the Vikings. Since then Warrington have backed that up with victory over Huddersfield Giants, and indeed are on a run of three successive wins having beaten Leeds before Easter. They are unbeaten now in four in the league after they earned a draw with Hull FC at the start of April. Like Saints, they are slowly turning their season around, climbing to ninth in the table and within two points of the top eight.
Next they host Wakefield Trinity on Saturday (April 22) looking for the win that would take them to within a point of the seventh-placed Belle Vue club and extend that unbeaten run to five games. Few would back against them either on current form, although Wakefield’s two Easter defeats did come against formidable opposition in the shape of Castleford and Wigan. Wakefield can count Salford, Catalans and Saints among their victims so far in 2017 and could, on their day, provide another headache for a Warrington side which can ill afford any more losses if they are serious about retaining any lingering top four hopes.
Yet it is that desperate need that seems to have galvanised Warrington in recent weeks and which has possibly been one of the main reasons for their upsurge in form. Trinity could still argue that they are confounding expectations even should they lose at Warrington this week, while the Wolves would be plunged back into crisis by another reverse. With both Leigh and Huddersfield in Challenge Cup action this week a defeat would not harm Warrington’s league position, but what it would do to their confidence after their recent revival is another story.