It may have been top against bottom last week when Saints travelled to Leigh Sports Village to face Leigh Centurions, but it definitely didn’t look like it as the champions struggled to secure a 22-12 win.
Saints boss Kristian Woolf was far from happy with the performance, stating poor discipline and ball control as the big factors. However, he did praise the efforts of the defence as Leigh’s two tries came via an overlap on the wing while they were down to 12 men following Theo Fages sinbin.
How many times do we see teams that, let’s be honest, should win convincingly but don’t due to what can only be a lack of focus?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to take credit away from Leigh’s efforts, but I’ve seen it so many times during my playing days at Saints. Some of the biggest struggles came in games against the teams we should be putting 50 points past.
But there is no given right to win in rugby league!
Thankfully, despite a scratchy performance we came away with the two points and stay firmly top of the table.
Only two teams remain undefeated this season – obviously ourselves and arch rivals Wigan Warriors, who defeated Hull FC on Thursday.
Attention now switches from the Super League to the Challenge Cup, also sponsored by our good friends at Betfred.
The title sponsors unsurprisingly have Saints 9/4 clear favourites to win the historic trophy at Wembley on July 17, with Wigan 7/2, Wire 4/1, Castleford 13/2, Hull FC 7/1, previous winners Catalans 10/1 and 2009 finalists Huddersfield 14/1 – while Salford remain the outsiders from the last eight at 16/1.
Saints have a tough quarter-final draw against Ian Watson’s Huddersfield on Friday.
The Giants have had a slow start to the Betfred Super League, but got their first win on Sunday in a close 14-13 defeat of the Leeds Rhinos. Aiden Sezer and former Saint Lee Gaskell causing most of the problems for the Rhinos.
I’m sure it will be a far more focused Saints side this week, and I’m going for a win by 16 points or more which is 11/10 at Betfred.
We will however be without backrower James Bentley, who picked up a nasty leg injury in the Leigh win and now faces a lengthy lay-off following surgery. James has really cemented his place in the starting 13 every week, a player who competes for everything out there on the field. I wish him a speedy full recovery and hopefully see him back out there later in the year.
The other Friday quarter-final sees a repeat of last week’s Super League fixture between Warrington and Catalans. Wire took the spoils then and I’m tipping them to do the same again this week.
It was great to see one of the greatest players to grace our game, Greg Inglis, make a try-scoring Betfred Super League debut for the Wire. I’m sure he’ll only get better as the weeks go by after two years in retirement.
Saturday sees the other two quarter-finals between Wigan-Hull and Castleford-Salford.
Nineteen times champions Wigan face FC for the second week running and I’m tipping them to win again by more than 10 points points (2/1 at Betfred) – while Castleford, who also face their opponents Salford for the second time in two weeks, should again have too much for the Red Devils. I’ll go for a 16 points or more triumph for Darryl Powell’s men (also 2/1 at Betfred).
The Challenge Cup holds some fantastic memories for me both as a supporter growing up and obviously as a player, with some of my greatest highlights being from this iconic competition. The Challenge Cup is always a brilliant opportunity to showcase our great game with both the BBC and Sky coverage.
I’m sure these four games this weekend won’t disappoint!