St Helens boss hails star man, ‘infectious character’ and impressive youngster
St Helens coach Paul Wellens picked out three players for special praise after their patient 38-0 win over Wakefield.
The champions only led 4-0 after half an hour, courtesy of Mark Percival’s seventh minute try which was laid on by a lovely pass from Jack Welsby.
Basement boys Wakefield put up a stern fight, particularly before the break, until Saints were finally able to put some points on the board in the final quarter of the match.
Wellens said: “There’s always an expectation, misguided at times, that you’re going to post a load of points and people say ‘come on, entertain us.’
“But the game of rugby league doesn’t work like that. You’ve got to earn opportunities and show respect. I knew the scoreboard blew out at the end, but at the same time I can’t fault (Wakefield’s) work ethic.
“They showed heart and character, particularly first half. We thought it might be a night we were going to have to be patient and it turned out that way.”
Saints earned some breathing space at the break thanks to Will Hopoate and Tommy Makinson tries, but their struggles were perhaps best reflected by the fact they took a penalty to nudge the score to 14-0 in the early stages of the second half.
Lewis Dodd backed up a break down the middle for their fourth try on the hour mark, after which the floodgates opened.
Jonny Lomax celebrated his 300th appearance with a try, but he really ought to have had two more as Matty Lees in the first half and Welsby in the second both neglected to pass him round the full-back on clean breaks.
Wellens joked: “Knowing Jonny like I do, he’ll be sitting them down afterwards! He won’t be too downbeat he didn’t get those, he’ll see it as a learning opportunity for everybody to make sure we get them next time.
“A player in his 300th game for the club showed all his quality. His major strength, apart from being the high quality and one of the best player’s in the competition, is that he’s one of the most competitive players you’ll ever come across. He competes as hard in his 300th match as he did in his first, and in every match in between. And that’s why we love having Jonny here.”
Either side of Lomax’s try was a brace for Konrad Hurrell, including one direct from a scrum play on the right hand side that almost mirrored Makinson’s first half score.
It was another fine outing for the Tonga international, who continues to defy the surprise shown when the champions made the move to bring him over the Pennines from Leeds, and he celebrated on the pitch at the end with recently born son, Sonny.
Wellens added: “He really buys in to what we’re about. He’s an integral part of the group and a player that everybody loves. What an infectious character he is. If he keeps working hard and training hard, he’s always going to be effective.”
Special praise was reserved for young prop George Delaney, making only his third first team appearance, after he played long minutes following the early injury to Alex Walmsley.
Delaney has featured five times on dual-registration for Championship side Swinton this season, and that is something Wellens believe has held him in good stead.
The coach said: “I thought he was fantastic. I can’t speak highly enough of George. We’ve seen how impressive he has been at Swinton and that grounding has put him in to a strong position to perform as he has tonight.”
Attention now turns to the Good Friday derby against arch rivals Wigan.