It was back to winning ways at the Totally Wicked Stadium as St Helens beat Castleford 20-12 on Sunday.
The current league leaders had a point to prove after a humiliating 44-12 loss to Salford last weekend – Kristian Woolf’s heaviest defeat as Saints boss.
It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means, and certainly a game of two halves. The champions went in at half-time 12-0, before a second-half Tommy Makinson penalty and a converted Joe Batchelor try extended that lead to 20-0.
However, like several times in previous weeks there were lapses in concentration, resulting in poor ball control and deficiencies in our defensive line, allowing the Tigers to play themselves back in to the game.
Take nothing away from Cas, who enjoyed some smart plays, including some clever kicks from former Saints player Danny Richardson, to put them in a position to post points.
Three late, unconverted tries by Tigers right-winger Bureta Faraimo certainly made the game more respectable for the visitors, and has no doubt given the Saints team a kick up the backside that you cannot switch off in games, especially coming up to the all-important last month or so of the season.
Positives from Sunday’s win include the return of the aforementioned Tommy Makinson, who I thought had his usual all-action performance.
Also, it was a big game from back-rower Curtis Sironen, who opened the scoring with one of his typical barnstorming runs. He certainly puts his body on the line in games and doesn’t shirk the physical stuff – but unfortunately it looks like the laws of the game have yet again cost him another two-week ban on the sidelines for a high tackle he was sin-binned for in the 71st minute.
So, after a couple of below-par performances Saints now face a trip to the MKM Stadium to take on Hull FC on Sunday.
The Black and Whites have quite honestly been terrible this year, winning only 10 of their 22 fixtures so far. They’ve lost seven of their last nine, beating only two sides below them in Betfred Super League – neighbours Hull KR and Toulouse.
Despite the hosts’ poor form, Saints must focus on getting back them ruthless standards. Quality skill, completions on attack and aggressive, and smart defence is key. They do that, they win the game – end of.
Title sponsors Betfred of course till have the three-peat champions clear favourites, at 11/10, to make it four in a row come the Grand Final at Old Trafford on September 24.
Wigan, who are second favourites at 9/4, come into this weekend’s fixtures against 11th-placed Wakefield on the back of a 32-6 thumping of relegation-threatened Warrington.
I cannot get my head round what is going on at the Halliwell Jones. For a club that is supposed to be challenging for silverware and has spent the money they have over the last decade or so, you could never imagine them in this current situation.
And things might yet get worse!
On Thursday, they play bottom club Toulouse who are only four points adrift of the Wolves, and I’ve absolutely no doubt the French side will fancy their chances.
All the pressure is on Darryl Powell and his team – and it’s about time that some of these highly-paid players earned their coin.
Finally, it was devastating to hear the news about Regan Grace rupturing his achilles, an injury I know all too well!
Having just come back from a setback, this latest blow signals not only the end of his season but his Saints career following his recent decision to switch codes to join French giants Racing 92.
Regan has been in devastating form over the past few years, earning himself the starting number five jersey and scoring some spectacular tries along the way. I wish Regan all the very best with his rehab and his new chosen career path.
One guy who is certainly doing everything he can to snatch that available wing spot is young Jon Bennison. I think Jon has had an outstanding debut season so far, and if he continues to work hard and offer himself In games the way he does how can anyone deny him!