St Helens showed their champion qualities by dismantling top-four challengers Huddersfield while playing most of the match a man short following the dismissal of Sione Mata’utia.
They actually finished the game with 11 men when Morgan Knowles was sin-binned late on. They still finished comfortable 25-0 winners to preserve their unbeaten home record in 2022 and strengthen their hold on top spot in Super League.
Mata’utia, who had successfully overturned a one-match ban for a high tackle to keep his place in the team, was given his marching orders by referee Chris Kendall after 16 minutes for lifting Giants hooker Danny Levi as he lay injured on the ground.
Saints suffer Will Hopoate blow
Saints coach Kristian Woolf had already been forced into re-shuffling his back division following the loss of full-back Will Hopoate to injury after just three minutes; and will be delighted with their response to adversity.
It meant an unhappy return to the Totally Wicked Stadium for former Saints scrum-half Theo Fages. The Giants experienced a sobering defeat to drop to fourth place.
The visitors sorely missed chief playmaker Tui Lolohea, who sat out only his second Super League match of the season with a minor ankle injury.
St Helens were boosted by the return of England prop Alex Walmsley. Agnatius Paasi was equally effective when he came on as a replacement for the big man.
Centre Konrad Hurrell was also a force on the 200th appearance of his career, while Jack Welsby continued his stellar campaign with another hugely influential display.
The drama began in the fourth minute when Hopoate was hurt preventing Huddersfield winger Innes Senior from opening the scoring. He passed his head injury assessment but was ruled out of the rest of the game with a shoulder injury.
It meant a major re-organisation. The versatile Welsby reverted to full-back and skipper James Roby switched into a makeshift half-back role, but nothing fazes this Saints team.
Mata’utia relieved the early pressure with a legitimate ball steal on half-back Oliver Russell, and Roby looked set to open the scoring when accepting an offload from the tackle by loose forward Morgan Knowles, but he lost control of the ball over the line.
Saints missed a chance to go in front when Jonny Lomax put a penalty wide. And they were down to 12 men when Mata’utia was given his red card.
The outnumbered champions were still able to summon enough defenders to bundle Senior into touch at the corner and they scored the only try of the first half on 28 minutes, when second-rower Joe Batchelor touched down Lomax’s grubber kick.
Lomax’s successful conversion made it 6-0 and Huddersfield missed a chance to open their account on the stroke of half-time when Pryce put a long-range penalty wide of the target.
HT: St Helens 6-0 Huddersfield Giants
It took St Helens just four minutes of the second half to increase their lead. Paasi proved unstoppable from 10 metres out after Huddersfield winger Jermaine McGillvary had lost the ball bringing it away from his own line.
McGillvary lost the ball again shortly afterwards – this time due to injury which forced his withdrawal from the match. And Saints were ruthless once more as Welsby forced his way over out wide for their third try.
St Helens were further depleted after Knowles was sin-binned on 71 minutes for his part in a melee. They still managed to add a fourth try when Lomax finished off a break by Welsby. The latter then added a drop goal.
FT: St Helens 25-0 Huddersfield Giants
St Helens: Hopoate; Bennison, Hurrell, Mata’utia, Grace; Welsby, Lomax; Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Sironen, Batchelor, Knowles. Subs: Lussick, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Paasi, Wingfield.
Tries: Batchelor, Paasi, Welsby, Lomax Goals: Lomax 4 Drop Goals: Welsby 1
Huddersfield: Pryce; McGillvary, Cudjoe, King, I Senior; Russell, Fages; Greenwood, Levi, Trout, Jones, McQueen, Yates. Subs: Golding, Wilson, Ashworth, Hewitt.