St Helens progress to semi-finals of Challenge Cup – talking points & ratings

Photo courtesy of Richard Long

St Helens are just 80 minutes away from Wembley after cruising past Wakefield 48-10 at the Totally Wicked Stadium. 

Justin Holbrook made four changes to his St Helens side that beat Castleford at Magic Weekend last time out. He welcomed big guns Mark Percival, Danny Richardson, Luke Thompson and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook back into the side.

Theo Fages (concussion), Matty Costello, James Bentley and Aaron Smith dropped out of the squad.

Wakefield coach Chris Chester made five changes to his squad that lost to Catalans at Anfield last week. Trinity brought Danny Brough, Jack Croft, Lee Kershaw, Jordan Crowther and Keegan Hirst into the team.

Max Jowitt, Junior Sa’u, Mason Caton-Brown, David Fifita and James Batchelor were missing for the visitors.

Lachlan Coote went over early doors for St Helens, before Wakefield debutant Jack Croft levelled the score.

Trinity full-back Ryan Hampshire was sin-binned on the half hour mark for dissent.

Saints got a roll on though and led 26-6 at the break thanks to further efforts from Tommy Makinson, Morgan Knowles and Regan Grace.

Tyler Randell pulled one back for Trinity early in the second half but Saints then scored four unanswered tries through Zeb Taia, Percival, Jonny Lomax and Kevin Naiqama to clinch an impressive 48-10 victory to reach the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup.

Three talking points

Can anyone stop St Helens?

Saints are flying in both Super League and the Challenge Cup this season. They are head and shoulders above any team in England right now, and credit must go to coach Holbrook.

He and the Saints were very unlucky not to come away with a major piece of silverware last season, but they are on course to rectify that this year. They are top of Super League and are now just 80 minutes away from Wembley.

A sign of a champion side is when you are winning but playing nowhere near your best. They didn’t get out of gear three against Wakefield but still won comfortably. It’s difficult – at this stage – to see anyone coming close to them this term.

Bad day at the office for Wakefield

It was a day to forget for Wakefield, who simply had an off-day. These type of performances happen to all teams at some stage of the season, and it unfortunately ended the Wembley dream of Trinity supporters.

They missed their blockbusting forward David Fifita, who would have really mixed it up in the middle with Alex Walmsley and Luke Thompson. Trinity are doing it tough with injuries at the minute, with the likes of Tinirau Arona, Tom Johnstone and Bill Tupou absent among others.

Going out of the Cup could be a blessing in disguise for Wakefield though, as now they can solely focus on the league. They are currently sixth in the table, so they can turn all their attention on making the top five play-offs.

Coote got to be in mix for GB

What a signing Coote has been for Saints so far. He is at the forefront of everything Holbrook’s side do going forward and has built up a good combination with Lomax as well.

Saints fans have certainly taken a shine to Coote and we should expect him to be in and around the Steve Prescott Man of Steel leaders come the end of the campaign.

The Australian-born full-back has earned three caps for Scotland via family heritage, so he qualifies to play for Great Britain. He has openly said that he would like to represent the Lions on their tour of the southern Hemisphere this autumn and with his performances this season, surely he has got to be in Wayne Bennett’s mind for the No. 1 spot?

Line-ups & ratings

St Helens: Coote (8); Makinson (8), Naiqama (7), Percival (7), Grace (7); Lomax (8), Richardson (7); Walmsley (8), Roby (8), Thompson (7), Taia (7), Peyroux (7), Knowles (8). Subs: Paulo (7), Lees (7), Ashworth (7), McCarthy-Scarsbrook (6).

Tries: Coote, Makinson, Knowles, Grace, Taia, Percival, Lomax, Naiqama Goals: Coote 8/11

Wakefield: Hampshire (7); Kershaw (5), Lyne (6), Croft (6), Jones-Bishop (6); Miller (5), Brough (6); England (5), Randell (6), Kopczak (6), Kirmond (5), Ashurst (6), Tanginoa (7). Subs: Crowther (5), Wood (6), King (6), Hirst (5).

Tries: Croft, Randell Goals: Brough 1/2

Attendance: 6,453

Drew’s views

Saints are pretty good to watch, aren’t they? There isn’t much more can be said about Holbrook’s troops this year. They are very well drilled in attack and are so fluent with the ball in hand.

They are – by miles – the best team currently in Super League and it’s difficult to see any other side stopping them for the treble this year. However, there were plenty of people saying this time last year and they lost in the semi-finals of both competitions, so we’ll see.

As for Wakefield, they are struggling for numbers at the minute and it’s showing. They are brilliant on their day, but they just need some bodies back sooner rather than later.

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