New season, same old St Helens. In the end, the opening gambit of the reigning champions’ quest for a third successive Super League title passed without a hitch. Dominant in defence and clinical in attack, this was everything we have come to expect from Kristian Woolf’s side in recent seasons.
Salford will certainly cause the competition’s best sides problems in 2021, but given a large turnover in players and the appointment of a new coach in the off-season, Richard Marshall’s first game in charge of the Red Devils was always likely to be tough.
The Saints were much the better of the two sides for the majority of the evening, and their dominance was reflected in the final score. Five tries to Salford’s one – with the outstanding Jonny Lomax at the heart of many of them – and a professional performance to boot: this was as solid a marker as they could hope to lay down as defending champions.
“We did a good job in not allowing them to frustrate us,” Woolf said. “We got a bit loose at times, but we got our composure back quite quickly whenever that happened.”
St Helens took a deserved 13-0 lead courtesy of tries from Tommy Makinson and Regan Grace, both expertly created with ball-in-hand, while at the other end Salford could do little to breach a stubborn defence, with Jack Welsby’s drop goal giving the Saints a three-score lead at the interval.
Perhaps the biggest positive for Salford’s developing side was their attitude, epitomised by the try Ken Sio claimed after half-time to briefly threaten a comeback. “There were moments we were pleased about, and the game was in the balance at that point,” said Marshall.
However, that Sio try merely stirred the Saints back into life. Within minutes they had restored their three-score lead when Mark Percival went over for his first try since the 2019 Grand Final, following an injury-hit 2020 season.
The Saints intensified the pressure in the final quarter, scoring two more tries to run out comfortable victors. First Krisnan Inu spilled a Theo Fages kick, allowing Kevin Naiqama to cross, and then Alex Walmsley underlined the Saints’ superiority with a well-taken solo try.
St Helens Welsby; Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace; Lomax, Fages; Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Thompson, Bentley, Mata’utia. Interchange McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Paasi, Smith. Tries Makinson, Grace, Percival, Naiqama, Walmsley. Goals Makinson 4. Drop goal Welsby (40).
Salford Sarginson; Sio, Watkins, Kear, Inu; Lolohea, Brown; Mossop, Addy, Ikahihifo, Livett, Lannon, Taylor. Interchange Pauli, Ormondroyd, Wells, Patton. Try Sio. Goal Inu. Referee L Moore.