Last season placing:
League position: 4th after regular season – 4th after Super 8’s
Challenge Cup: Sixth round
Running out of steam
There was a huge belief in the latter stages of the 2016 season that St Helens were about to sneak up on the rest of the competition and take out the Super League Grand Final, as they secured a top four place with a remarkable winning run at the end of the regular season. Saints won their final five fixtures, before extending that run to seven with wins in their opening two rounds of the Super 8’s. Their only defeat in the second phase of the season came away to eventual Champions Wigan Warriors, as they pipped Catalans Dragons to fourth spot.
Their season was brought to a premature end at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in the semi-finals though, as their chances of a fairytale triumph were ended. They bowed out with an 18-10 loss to Warrington Wolves which included some questionable calls from Ben Thaler. Looking back, Saints may rue their mid-season form which saw them fall off the pace of the top three, as a home tie in the last four may have helped their Old Trafford cause.
James Roby: Every year the St Helens number nine leads by example and without out him they struggle, such is his influence. A true 80-minute performer and a brick wall in the middle of the field, however his ball playing abilities are just as impressive as he picks the perfect time to jump from dummy half to spark an attacking move. By far the most important player at the club.
Matty Smith: Saints have never been able to replace the halfback pairing from their glory years of Sean Long and Leon Pryce, and now they have turned to a man who was under their noses the whole time. After picking up the Super League trophy with Wigan Warriors, Smith has returned to the club as St Helens hope he is the missing piece in their jigsaw. An injury in their friendly with Widnes Vikings means he will miss the beginning of the season, so we will have to wait a little longer to see him back in action.
Kyle Amor: A no-nonsense prop forward who has established himself as one of the top middle men in the country, with his solid defence and strong carries of the ball. He was key in their title winning year of 2014 where they dominated their opponents in the middle, and if they are looking to go back to that winning formula in 2017 Amor will be at the heart of their dominance in the forwards.
Story of 2017:
Saints are dedicated to promoting youth from within their excellent academy and that is clear to see just by looking at their 2017 squad. They have brought in a couple of players to offset their off-season loses but once again Keiron Cunningham is placing his faith in the youngsters at the club. If they are hit by injuries they may struggle, but players like Jake Spedding, Morgan Knowles and Matthew Fleming have stepped up and held their own when called upon in the past.
They will be hoping to improve on last season and their main focus will be consistency, as a lack of that was their downfall in 2016. If they can avoid a mid-season blip they could be in a position to challenge for silverware this year.
League Table: 5th
Challenge Cup: Semi-finals
Top try scorer: Tommy Makinson
Top points scorer: Matty Smith
Player of the Year: Mark Percival
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