St Helens coach Kristian Woolf is hopeful prop James Graham will get the chance to bring down the curtain on his career on a high by playing in next Friday’s Super League Grand Final.
Centre Kevin Naiqama scored a hat-trick of tries and full-back Lachlan Coote contributed 24 points as the defending champions brushed aside Catalans Dragons 48-2 to set up a mouth-watering derby clash with Wigan at Hull’s KCOM Stadium.
The only disappointment for St Helens was the loss of veteran prop Graham early in the game with a head injury while fellow front-rower Alex Walmsley also failed to finish the contest after succumbing to a knee injury.
Graham, who is hanging up his boots at the end of the season, caught a stray elbow from team-mate Jack Welsby and must undergo a series of head tests to see if he will get the chance to face Wigan at the KCOM Stadium.
“I haven’t spoke to him or the doc yet but he has got seven days and that put him in line to play provided he recovers well and comes through the protocols through the week,” Woolf said.
“Hopefully he will, obviously it’s great to be able to get him to a Grand Final and I’d love to see him there next week.”
Woolf insists Walmsley will definitely take his place in the title decider.
“We don’t think it’s serious at all,” he said. “It was bothering him a bit and we thought bringing him off was the smart thing to do. It was precautionary.”
Catalans went into the game without two of their key players, hooker Michael McIlorum and second-rower Joel Tomkins, because of suspension and their over-physical approach backfired spectacularly as they were twice reduced to 12 men.
Stand-off James Maloney and second-row forward Ben Garcia were both sin-binned for high tackles as the Dragons conceded six tries in the second half.
Coach Steve McNamara admitted the yellow cards added to the size of his side’s task but refused to use the absence of McIlorum and Tomkins as an excuse for the defeat.
“They’re good players but I thought we were really in it in the first half,” he said. “We weren’t too worried about the scoreboard at half-time, we thought we could get back into it but we got the second half horribly wrong.
“The two tries off kicks in the first 10 minutes took the scoreboard away and then we pulled ourselves apart.
“That’s the killer for me. We fought so hard to get to this point and, after such a great effort all season by the players and the staff, to come into a major semi-final and get beat by that is harsh.
“There is a lot of emotion in the dressing room, it’s difficult to take.”
Woolf praised the performance of referee Liam Moore in keeping tempers in check throughout a physical contest.
“I thought the referee did a terrific job,” he said. “He made a stance by protecting the players.
“He made sure things didn’t get out of control and prevented players from taking matters into their own hands.
“I thought our boys played outstanding. I was really happy with the way they attacked, I thought they controlled the game really well.
“We played to our strengths tonight and we backed it up with really good defence.”
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