St Helens coach Justin Holbrook said his team handled Ben Barba’s absence in great fashion as they beat Hull FC.
Barba was going to play for St Helens in their win over Hull FC, but the decision not to play him came on Friday lunchtime – just hours before kick-off.
Matty Smith replaced Barba in the squad and Saints went on to produce a solid display to beat Hull FC 26-12 at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday night.
And Holbrook is proud of the way his players handled the last-minute disruption.
He said: “Barba got ill on Thursday and hadn’t improved on gameday.
“He could have played but it was a positive sign from the rest of the team because we got disrupted on the day of the game and to play as well as we did was a real credit to us.
“Matty was really good. He was excited to get the opportunity to play and only found out after lunch today (Friday) that he was going to play, so I thought he went really well for us.
“It makes it feel like an even better win knowing that we defended as well as we did against Hull because they are a very attacking team.”
England Knights representative Luke Thompson and Zeb Taia produced bone-crushing displays in the forward pack to help Saints remain at the top of the Betfred Super League table.
And Holbrook was proud of how his forward pack stood up to FC.
He added: “When you are playing your third game in eight days then you need everyone to play well and I thought they did that.
“All of our forwards were really strong and for them to do it in the fashion they did was fantastic.
“Thommo (Thompson) has been fantastic all year. I don’t want to just isolate him though, I thought Zeb Taia, Dom (Peyroux) and all the rest of the forwards did really well. Thommo stands out, he just keeps going and is a great player.”
Saints skipper James Roby has injured his ribs, but Holbrook admitted it was too early to confirm whether he will be okay to face Wakefield Trinity next week.