Saints Must Prove Magic Was Not Just An Illusion
All of rugby league stood back and gasped in amazement as a previously mediocre Saints side handed high-flying Hull FC a 45-0 thrashing at the Magic Weekend in Newcastle last weekend. It was a great performance from Saint, one totally out of whack with much of their 2017 work to date. It came only seven days on from their humiliating 53-10 Challenge Cup exit at Castleford Tigers, and just a fortnight after a 14-0 lead at Warrington was magically transformed into a whopping 40-18 defeat.
So can Saints keep it going when they host their nearest and dearest rivals Wigan this Thursday night (May 25)? The Warriors battled to a 24-24 draw with Warrington at Newcastle and are still set to be without several of their established first team squad. They didn’t have it all their own way against Saints when the teams met on Good Friday, just about good value for a 29-18 win in a game which saw Saints play for almost 70 minutes with 12 men following the decidedly iffy dismissal of Kyle Amor for a high tackle on Liam Marshall.
This will be Justin Holbrook’s first game in sole charge of Saints and he will have had a couple of days more exert his influence on a team that was clearly highly motivated at Newcastle by the arrival of a new man who might, might just have new ideas about who should and should not have a contract at Saints going forward. One good game won’t be enough to convince him that he current squad is good enough, so expect maximum effort and commitment again from Saints. The only question is whether or not that will be good enough against a Wigan side that always, whatever the personnel, finds a way to be competitive.
Castleford To March On
Hull’s defeat to Saints allowed Castleford Tigers to open up a two-point gap at the top of the BetFred Super League table as they recorded a 29-18 win over Leeds Rhinos. Don’t expect that to close this week as Daryl Powell’s side enjoy the virtual bye that is a home game with Widnes Vikings. Dennis Betts’ side lie bottom of the table with just two wins from their first 14 league outings and were comprehensively beaten 34-12 by Wakefield at Newcastle. With nine rounds to go before the end of the regular season the Vikings are seven points adrift of the top eight and appear certainties to appear in the Middle 8 Qualifiers in August.
Contrast that with Castleford whose win over the Rhinos at Magic was their 11th win from 14 league outings, and who have scored over 500 points in the league this season. To put that into context no other side have scored more than 400. They have scored 88 tries, 28 more than the next best effort of 60 from Salford Red Devils. Defensively the Tigers are not too shabby either, conceding a league-best 232 points so far. They look far too strong for the Vikings in all departments and all facets of the game.
Anything but a Tigers win in this one would be a massive surprise, though there is intrigue in seeing how Rangi Chase performs against the clubs with whom he has had two spells, and from where he is currently on loan to the Vikings.