St Helens are eight from eight after toppling Hull KR – talking points & ratings

Photo courtesy of Richard Long

St Helens remain the only Super League side to have won every game this season after beating Hull KR 36-24 at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

The Saints sit top of the Super League table on 16 points, with eight wins from as many games in 2019.

Justin Holbrook made four changes to his Saints side that beat Castleford Tigers last week. Jack Welsby, Aaron Smith, James Bentley and Kyle Amor came in for Mark Percival, James Roby, Zeb Taia and Alex Walmsley.

Hull KR coach Tim Sheens made three changes to his outfit that were heavily defeated at Huddersfield Giants last time out. Ben Crooks, Kane Linnett and Mitch Garbutt replaced Elliot Wallis, Harry Bardle and Adam Rooks.

Saints scored three tries in the opening quarter through Lachlan Coote, Welsby and Luke Thompson. Coote kicked two goals and they were 16-0 to the good after 20 minutes.

But Hull KR woke up in the second quarter and fought their way back into the game. Kane Linnett bagged a brace and Will Oakes also went over for the away side. Ryan Shaw’s three goals saw Rovers edge themselves into an 18-16 lead at the break.

Coote levelled the score shortly after the break with a penalty goal, before Shaun Lunt capitalised on a Jonny Lomax error and put Hull KR back in front in the 50th minute.

But coach Holbrook marched down to the touchline from the stands and his words of wisdom worked, with his side scoring two quick tries on the hour through Amor and Smith.

Wales international Regan Grace sealed the win for St Helens with just eight minutes remaining as he flew over in the corner. Coote added a late penalty goal to hand the league leaders a 36-24 victory.

Three talking points

Knowles one of Super League’s most underrated players

Morgan Knowles put in a dazzling performance for St Helens and he fully deserves his recent call-up to the England Knights Performance Squad.

In a team loaded with superstars, the 22-year-old certainly goes under the radar and he probably doesn’t get noticed as much as the likes of Lomax and Fages, but he is certainly appreciated by coach Holbrook.

Knowles, who represented Wales via heritage at the 2017 World Cup, is one of the best back-rowers or loose forwards in Super League. He worked his socks off but also had a bit of class about him in attack.

Saints youngsters step up

Many eyebrows were raised an hour before kick-off when experienced key men Roby, Percival, Walmsley and Taia were not included on the teamsheet.

But the young players who came in did very, very well. Hooker Smith was top quality and dealt with a lot of heavy workload through the middle in defence. Can he be the long-term successor of Roby? He is showing incredible potential whenever selected.

Welsby and Bentley also impressed and certainly don’t look out of place in Super League. Welsby, an England Academy international, scored his first try for St Helens, while Bentley had a good work ethic.

Rovers struggling for consistency

Sheens’ side have blown hot and cold in the opening two months of the season. They have shown glimpses of how good of a side they could be, but they have had poor defence for the majority of the campaign.

They leaked three tries in the opening 20 minutes against Saints and you simply can’t do that against a team who have won every game they’ve played so far in 2019.

The Rovers started poorly but came back into the game and made it difficult for St Helens in the second and third quarters, but Saints were relentless and won the arm wrestle. Hull KR just need to string an 80-minute performance together, that needs to be their aim.

Line-ups and ratings

St Helens: Coote (9); Makinson (7), Naiqama (7), Welsby (8), Grace (7); Lomax (8), Fages (7); Lees (7), Smith (9), Thompson (8), Bentley (7), Peyroux (7), Knowles (9). Subs: Paulo (7), Amor (7), McCarthy-Scarsbrook (6), Ashworth (7).

Tries: Coote, Welsby, Thompson, Amor, Smith, Grace Goals: Coote 6/8

Hull KR: Hall (7); Shaw (7), Keinhorst (6), Crooks (6), Oakes (7); Drinkwater (8), Atkin (6); Masoe (6), Lee (5), Lawler (6), Tomkins (7), Linnett (8), Hauraki (7). Subs: Lunt (7), Addy (6), Vaivai (6), Garbutt (7).

Tries: Linnett (2), Oakes, Lunt Goals: Shaw 4/4

Attendance: 10,003

Drew’s views

St Helens’ youngsters were the highlight of the game. It’s always great to see young British players coming through and thriving on the big stage.

Smith and Welsby were brilliant for Saints going forward, with Bentley putting a solid shift in defence. Saints just don’t give up, do they? They stayed in the grind when Hull KR threw the kitchen sink at them, and they reaped their rewards.

And Hull KR were good value but they were left chasing their tails after conceding 16 points against the league leaders so early on in the game. They played some great stuff at times, but its needed for 80 minutes rather than short spells in games.

Elsewhere in Super League 

Warrington Wolves battered Hull FC 63-12 at the KCOM Stadium.

Blake Austin (4), Daryl Clark, Josh Charnley (3), Ben Murdoch-Masila and Tom Lineham (2) scored for the Wolves.