St Helens beat Warrington 30-12 in a dress rehearsal of the Challenge Cup final in two weeks time.
Warrington coach Steve Price made nine changes to his side that lost against Catalans in Perpignan last week. Josh Thewlis, Luther Burrell, Riley Dean, Matty Smith, Danny Walker, Ben Westwood, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Lama Tasi and Luis Johnson came in.
Tom Lineham, Toby King, Blake Austin, Dec Patton, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Jack Hughes, Jason Clark and Joe Philbin dropped out.
Justin Holbrook made four changes to his St Helens outfit that beat Wakefield last time out. Matty Costello, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax and Aaron Smith returned to the team.
Adam Swift, Mark Percival, Theo Fages and James Roby were rested for Saints.
Jake Mamo handed Warrington the lead before Kevin Naiqama went over for the travelling side in the 11th minute.
Thewlis scored his first try for the Wolves but Jonny Lomax crossed the whitewash on the half hour mark to give Saints a 12-10 lead at the break.
It was all Saints in the second half apart from a Stefan Ratchford penalty goal for Warrington.
Joseph Paulo, Matty Costello and Tommy Makinson went over in the second 40 to seal a 30-12 win for League Leaders’ Shield winners St Helens.
Three talking points
St Helens pack formidable
It has been said so many times by so many people this year but St Helens’ pack is absolutely brutal – just the way coach Holbrook likes it.
Luke Thompson makes over 10 metres per carry, while the likes of Matty Lees and Jack Ashworth are hard to bring down in a one-on-one tackle.
Zeb Taia and Dom Peyroux are enjoying brilliant seasons in the back-row and are playing the best rugby of their career. The pair are tackling machines and lay the platform for Saints in defence.
Homegrown talent on show
Both teams rested first-team regulars ahead of their Wembley showdown in two weeks but that gave the opportunity to a couple of young players who have progressed through the respective academies.
Thewlis made his first-team debut for Warrington earlier in the year and he looks a real talent, who can play at full-back or wing. Riley Dean made his debut for Warrington and although he made a few errors, he showed glimpses of promise.
Jack Welsby will play for England one day. The St Helens youngster has already a number of first-team appearances under his belt and is a star of the future. Saints forwards Ashworth and Lees are top prospects, too.
Smith makes Warrington bow
Matty Smith made his Warrington debut against his former club St Helens on Thursday night after arriving from Catalans on a loan until the end of the season.
The 32-year-old had a pretty good game. He didn’t do anything magical but he did what Warrington signed him for: to guide the team around the park and his last tackle plays were solid.
It will be interesting to see how Smith links up with Blake Austin when the marquee player returns from his ankle sprain. He’ll certainly add experience to the Wolves in big games.
Line-ups and player ratings
Warrington: Ratchford (7); Thewlis (6), Goodwin (6), Burrell (5), Mamo (6); Dean (5), Smith (6); Hill (7), Walker (6), Akauola (6), Currie (5), Livett (7), Westwood (6). Subs: Murdoch-Masila (7), Davis (7), Tasi (5), Johnson (5).
Tries: Mamo, Thewlis Goals: Ratchford 2/4
St Helens: Welsby (8); Makinson (7), Naiqama (7), Costello (7), Grace (7); Lomax (8), Richardson (7); Lees (7), Smith (6), Thompson (7), Taia (7), Peyroux (7), McCarthy-Scarsbrook (7). Subs: Paulo (6), Amor (7), Ashworth (7), Bentley (6).
Tries: Naiqama, Lomax, Paulo, Costello, Makinson Goals: Richardson 5/5
It was a great game to watch and no doubt the neutrals watching on Sky Sports would have enjoyed it as well. It was an old fashioned game of rugby league that had plenty of big hits and line breaks.
St Helens are a top quality side and a pleasure to watch. It’s good to see Holbrook giving young blood a chance as well, with the likes of James Bentley, Aaron Smith and Matty Costello getting game-time.
It’s hard to judge Warrington’s performance because they had nine first-team regulars missing – but the players did a decent job against strong Saints side. The signing of Smith could go very poorly or be a masterstroke, so it’ll be interesting to see how he goes.