WATCH: Tee Ritson’s flying first try for St Helens as they beat St George-Illawarra
St Helens kept up their hopes of winning the NRL pre-season challenge and a $100,000 prize with a 30-18 win over St George-Illawarra Dragons.
The NRL has increased interest in its pre-season schedule by creating the two-week challenge, where clubs can earn points for winning and enterprising play.
For Saints, the game against the Dragons was the perfect preparation for their World Club Challenge tussle with Penrith Panthers next week.
It’s the world champions tag that will be the source of their attention, but they earned 14 points in the pre-season challenge – 12 points for a win and two bonus points.
Bonus points are earned for scoring five or more tries, making five or more line breaks or completing 10 or more offloads.
MORE: How St Helens can win the NRL pre-season challenge
St Helens get the win on Australian soil
Saints, who have been in Australia for 10 days, started the game strongly and took a 16-12 lead in to half-time.
James Roby received the plaudits before and during the game from the Australian media, and it was his short kick from dummy half that created the opening try for Lewis Dodd.
A wonderful offload by Tommy Makinson enabled Jack Welsby to cross for their second try, before St George-Illawarra hit back.
Makinson was at his clinical best to restore the advantage though, stepping in from the right wing and beating four men to ground the ball over the line.
The lead could have been greater at the break had Will Hopoate’s try been given off a clever bit of play by Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, but the video referee eventually ruled it out for an inadvertent knock on by Sione Mata’utia in the build up.
VERDICT: Five takeaways from St Helens’ win over St George Illawarra Dragons
Ritson makes his mark
In the second half, good pressure from McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Welsby on a last tackle kick forced an error from the Dragons, and on the next play Joey Lussick snuck over from dummy half.
Tee Ritson flew over for his first Saints try on the right hand side with 10 minutes left, racing in from 15 metres after quick hands saw him released by Konrad Hurrell.
He’s already taking inspiration from Tommy Makinson, with the sort of acrobatic finish that has become Makinson’s trademark.
Ritson had replaced Makinson for the second half, with the England international nursing a knock to the quad that he said caused a dead leg when interviewed as he came off the pitch at half-time.
Match Highlights 🎥 – #NRLDragonsSaints
St Helens prepared for their World Club Challenge clash against Penrith with a 30-18 win over the Dragons! pic.twitter.com/KsunOIOOqa
— NRL (@NRL) February 11, 2023
It’s been a whirlwind few months for Ritson, who made the move to St Helens on loan from Championship side Barrow.
The prolific winger scored 33 tries in 31 games to help the Raiders reach the play-offs in 2022.
Under contract at Craven Park, a deal was negotiated to enable him to take the full-time opportunity at St Helens where he will be putting pressure on youngster Jon Bennison for a first-team spot.
Saints lost flying winger Regan Grace to rugby union at the end of last season, and have also drafted in teenage Yorkshireman Wesley Bruines following a stint in Australia.
Ritson’s try will do his selection prospects no harm as Paul Wellens ponders his options for the World Club Challenge against Penrith, which will be broadcast live by Sky Sports and Channel 4 next Saturday.
He’s not taken a backwards step: Tee Ritson impressing at new club Saints