Saints shine under early season favourites tag

According to the media’s pre-season predictions, St Helens and Castleford will be Super League’s top two this year.

That may or may not prove to be the case, but Saints showed that the favourites tag won’t scare them with a tremendous opening night performance against the team of last year.

From the moment they broke the deadlock on five minutes, Justin Holbrook’s men dominated a disappointing Tigers, who will be keen to bounce back immediately when they host Widnes next week.

For Saints, it was a performance that demonstrated just why they’re fancied by almost everyone – even if Garry Schofield was claiming at Warrington on Thursday that it was he who started the trend of backing the redvee in 2018!

Wherever you looked for Saints on Friday there were positives. Their left edge of Jonny Lomax, Zeb Taia and Mark Percival, with Ben Barba thrown in, looked extremely dangerous and former captain Jon Wilkin responded in the perfect manner with a fine performance.

Barba could well be head and shoulders above anyone in Super League this season if he can perform like that. He scored two tries and had a hand in virtually all of the eight tries the hosts scored.

There was even a touch of Barba about big Alex Walmsley’s desire and agility in knocking a ball destined to go out back for Lomax’s try.

It was a tough night for Castleford, and coach Daryl Powell pulled no punches at just how bad they were in his post-match press conference.

Already, opposing fans are keen to write off the Tigers, but that talk is surely premature.

A defeat at Saints, which is what this was, is not uncommon for Cas – they haven’t won there since 1992.

Clearly Ben Roberts needs time to adjust to his full-back role, and the bold call to start Jake Trueman ahead of former Saint Jamie Ellis backfired.

But this is just one game. And Castleford will go on to prove that they are far from a flash in the pan that some seem to hope they are.

Mind you, given they came within 80 minutes of a league leaders shield in 2014, where this one season wonders tag comes from, I’m not sure.

On a final note, the lack of creative half-backs is often noted as the difference between England and Australia on the international stage.

Well, we had four English half-backs starting at the Totally Wicked Stadium last night, with Matty Smith not even included.

If Richardson and Trueman can fulfil their undoubted potential, and with the likes of Leeds’ Jack Walker, Oliver Gildart at Wigan and Wakefield’s Tom Johnstone developing nicely, the future looks bright.

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