Saints boss Kristian Woolf was surprisingly calm in his post-match interview following our shock defeat to neighbours Warrington Wolves.
He actually praised his players for their second-half efforts, keeping the opposition scoreless despite failing to create their own their own scoring opportunities with the game finishing 6-2 to the Wire.
Despite Saints lack of cohesion in attack, I must praise the Warrington defence. I was doing the Our League commentary for the Warrington-Wakefield fixture and commented how disconnected and soft the Wolves defence was – how different they were this week.
Saints at times were their own worst enemy, letting Warrington off the hook with unforced errors in key field position or poor finishes to sets, instead of turning this pressure into points or in worst case repeat sets.
We are clearly the best team in the Betfred Super League, but at times in big games we have been humbled by the opposition defence getting off the line and in the faces of the Saints players. Sometimes we have to learn how to adapt our attack and play smarter to combat that.
I speak not only about Saints there, but Super League as a whole. The game at times is very structured, very one-dimensional. The reason we’ve been back-to-back champions for the past two seasons is because of our ability to exploit opportunities in front of us.
One point Kristian Woolf made which I wholeheartedly agree with is this latest trend of players feigning injury and stopping play. I’ve seen numerous occasions of this this season, and it’s just not acceptable in RL. We have brought in a number of rule changes over the past couple of seasons to increase the ‘ball in play’ time – shot clock and set restarts to name two – so this completely goes against everything we want to achieve. If you want to do this, get yourself a round ball!
The champions are still favourites with title sponsors Betfred for glory in the Grand Final come October at 15/8, with Wigan 5/2, Warrington 5/1, and Hull FC 9/1.
Unfortunately, due to a number of positive Covid results in the Hull KR camp, Saints’ league fixture this Friday has been postponed. However, four of the team will get a run-out in England’s World Cup warm-up game against the Combined All Stars at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Friday.
Tom Makinson, Alex Walmsley, Morgan Knowles and Jonny Lomax will be pulling on the England jersey for the first time in nearly three years. The game will hopefully live up to the early hype of what would have been a genuine ‘test’ in preparation for the end of year.
However, with Betfred Super League fixtures now on the same weekend, and Covid isolations in certain clubs, let’s hope the game is as intense as can be.
Whatever the opposition, this is about England and our preparation for winning a World Cup. Shaun Wane has made it very clear to the players what his standards are, and what is required to pull on this England jersey. I personally can’t wait.
Finally, absolutely fantastic news that the Betfred Challenge Cup Final has been given the green light for 45,000 fans to attend Wembley for the Saints-Castleford finale.
The game has been selected as part of the government’s Events Research Programme and will be allowed to run at 50% capacity, with Saints and Castleford being allocated a further 10,000 tickets each, with York and Featherstone who’ll take part in the AB Sundecks Final prior to the main event being given 2,500 tickets each. What a great day in store!