Three Betfred Super League titles on the bounce – what an achievement!
This Saints side, who have dominated the competition yet again in a season where they also won the Betfred Challenge Cup, are undoubtedly one of the best in the history of the club.
We all know the quality Kristian Woolf’s team possesses, but on Saturday they showed the grit and resilience of champions.
It was, as we expected, one hell of a final against League Leaders’ Shield winners Catalans Dragons at Old Trafford. The French side wouldn’t go away, despite Saints dominating field position in the opening 40 minutes and scoring the only try of the half through the outstanding Kevin Naiqama.
Catalans chose to take any points available against a very strong Saints defence. James Maloney opened the scoring with a penalty goal, then again opted to take the two despite being 6-2 down after Naiqama’s try taking them to 6-4.
That decision nearly paid off as the Dragons asked a lot more questions of the Saints defence in the second half, resulting in them taking the lead through a Mike McMeeken try.
Saints, not used to chasing games, stayed composed despite the prize at stake and in the 65th minute it was that man again, Naiqama, who crossed for his second try of the game to pull Saints level and secure himself the Harry Sunderland Man of the Match award. It was then left to the ice cold Lachlan Coote to slot over the goal and give us a 12-10 lead which they would see out for the remaining 13 minutes and return us our third title in as many years.
One thing that did stand out on Saturday evening was the togetherness of this group, something the victorious coach Kristian Woolf spoke about after the game. He spoke of his pride of this special bunch of players.
Massive credit to Kristian for the job he has done, alongside my good mate Paul Wellens and the rest of the backroom staff. It must always be a tough gig for any coach taking over from a title winning boss, namely Justin Holbrook, but I believe Kristian has taken them to another level during his two year reign so far – and I see absolutely no reason why we won’t be celebrating title number FOUR this time next year!
The game was a true final – an arm wrestle, a war of attrition rather than a game of flair and expansive rugby.
Some other outstanding performers on the day were the ever-competitive Morgan Knowles, Joe Bachelor – and the glue that holds everything together in skipper James Roby. Add to this the young guns Jack Welsby and Lewis Dodd who continue their development at the highest level and you can see why more silverware is just around the corner.
It was also a fitting tribute to several players leaving the club – Coote, who has been an integral part of the three titles, who is off to join Hull KR and the irrepressible Naiqama, who is returning to Australia. Joel Thompson and James Bentley have also played their last game for the club. There are, however, some exciting new signings for the 2022 season – and no doubts we will be the team to beat once again.
This is something title sponsors Betfred agree with. Saints are 5/2 favourites to retain their crown ahead of Wire at 4/1 and Catalans at 5/1.
Wigan Warriors, under their new management regime, are available at 6/1 – while Betfred Super League new boys Toulouse are the big outsiders at 100/1 to win next season’s Grand Final.
Finally, big congratulations to Saints Women who themselves completed the 2021 treble after a 28-0 demolition of Leeds Rhinos in the Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final at Headingley on Sunday.
Saints really are the dominant force in rugby league right now!