Saints On For Treble
Eye On Rugby League by Tony Williams
On the evidence of Saturday's Powergen Challenge Cup final it looks as though the Saints will keep on marching through to the engage Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford. The Knowsley Road side saw off Huddersfield Giants in comprehensive fashion; and it doesn't look as though their impressive form will dip between now and mid-October.
St Helens are a team with a hunger for success which belies their extremely successful recent past – and that is probably down to last season.
The Saints were knocked out of the cup at the semi-final stage by a Hull FC side that went on to lift the famous old trophy. The players admitted afterwards that they had been complacent (although this could be a little unfair on Hull) and that would have stayed with them.
In similar fashion St Helens made history – but not the good kind – as the first team to finish atop the Super League table and miss out on Old Trafford. After being the best side throughout the season lifting the often-overlooked League Leaders' Shield was scant consolation.
A major factor in Saints' success has been their new coach – Daniel Anderson. There cannot be many men in the world who could improve Ian Millward's team, but he has.
One major improvement has been in defence. While St Helens never had a leaky defence they would often suffer at least one thrashing a year – see the 70-0 loss at Leeds for example. But under Anderson defence has become a priority at Knowsley Road; and the rewards are there for all to see.
The Saints board must be desperate to keep Anderson at the helm amidst rumours of an imminent return to the NRL with either Sydney Roosters or Cronulla Sharks.
A side like St Helens this season are going to take some stopping. They've already won the cup and tomorrow night they could be wrapping up the League Leadership. And who would bet against them completing the treble?
This weekend marks a hundred years since the creation rugby league's defining aspect – the thirteen-a-side game. Just over ten years since the formation of the Northern Union it was decided to dispense with the two ‘flankers' and reduce the size of the scrum in order to create a faster, more open spectacle.
If today's rugby league is anything to go by, that move has paid dividends. Rugby league is a quick, open game; whereas rugby union – which is still fifteen-a-side remains a scrappy affair with too many line-outs and scrummages.
The anniversary reminds us that rugby league is a sport not afraid to try something new in order to better itself. It also reminds us that rugby league is – in our opinion at least – the greatest spectator sport.
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