Saints prop Matty Lees hailed after making 68 tackles in 80 minutes

Drew Darbyshire
Matty Lees St Helens SWpix

St Helens coach Paul Wellens was full of praise for prop Matty Lees, who made 68 tackles in 80 minutes to help Saints grind out a 14-12 win at Huddersfield.

Lees produced an 80-minute performance, which is rare for a front-rower at the elite level, but made 68 tackles in the process in his side’s battling win at the John Smith’s Stadium.

St Helens lost key back-rower Sione Mata’utia in the first 30 seconds of the game with a head injury, but Lees’ mammoth effort helped Saints claim the two points.

Wellens said: “I never came in tonight thinking a middle player will have to do that but the longer the game went on I never saw signs of Matty slowing down.

“When I think about the history of Super League and players like James Graham and Stuart Fielden who used to be able to do that, Matty’s performance is as iconic as some of those.”

Paul Wellens praises St Helens resilience

Saints took a 12-0 lead in the first half an hour thanks to tries from Konrad Hurrell and Tommy Makinson.

Ash Golding pulled one back for Huddersfield just before the break, but Saints were 12-6 to the good at half-time.

Makinson added a penalty goal in the second half to stretch Saints’ lead before Giants winger Innes Senior scored to set up a pulsating finish.

But Wellens’ side managed to hang on for a 14-12 win after a war of attrition.

Wellens said: “It was extremely tough but we spoke all week about it and we didn’t expect anything different.

“To hang in there the way we did is a true test of character.

“When you lose Sione in the first minute, what you need in those situations is the team and individuals to put their hands up and play tough, and to a man we did that tonight and it was a really valuable two points.”

REPORT: Huddersfield 12-14 St Helens: Matty Lees mammoth effort helps Saints win

Ian Watson happy with where Huddersfield are at

Giants boss Ian Watson insisted he isn’t concerned after his side’s consecutive defeat leaves them with just two wins from five so far in 2023.

Watson said: “I’m not worried about where we are the moment. We’ve played two of the best teams in the competition by far and we’ve had two 14-12 games that shows how much we’ve improved.

“We’re building and we knew we’d have to start quite slowly while we got the players in the right spaces.

“I’m really happy with where we are now because we’re on the front foot and we’re starting to get more confidence.

“My over-riding emotion is that I’m really proud of the way we played and stuck at it.

“They’re such small margins between the top teams and it comes down to little moments, and being clinical enough to take those opportunities.”

St Helens welcome Wakefield to the Totally Wicked Stadium next Friday. Huddersfield face a trip to Salford next Sunday.

READ NEXT: St Helens forward set for “few weeks” on sidelines