St Helens stormed to a 46-6 victory over last year’s Super League Grand Finalists Castleford. Ben Barba vindicated the bookies’ decision to mark him up as Man Of Steel favourite with a Man Of The Match performance in front of a raucous crowd at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
The scoring started early for the Saints, and with two tries from Ben Barba and Zeb Taia in the first ten minutes the home side were scoring at over a point a minute. Castleford crept back into the grind towards the middle part of the first half, however, it was to no avail with St Helens scoring another two tries in the same period. Jonny Lomax touched down off the back of an extraordinary piece of skill from Alex Walmsley to keep the ball in play and extremely lackadaisical defending from Castleford at the back. Soon after, Mark Percival strolled in of the back of a string off dominant sets from St Helens and took St Helens 22-0 up into the half time break.
Castleford’s efforts at a come back resulted in time in the sin bin for Kyle Amor soon after Percival had crossed for his second of the night. The Tigers utilised the one man advantage and Paul McShane crossed for their only points of the half. St Helens didn’t stop playing either though and scored another three unanswered tries through Barba, Taia, and Percival in what was seemingly a 15-minute victory parade before the final whistle.
Ben Barba scored two and set up four tries in St Helens demolition of Castleford. Despite having an impact in the few games he played after coming back from his ban last season, it still remained to be seen whether Barba would have the impact that Saints would want from a marquee signing. However, after a full pre-season with Holbrook at the helm, Barba has undoubtedly shown the impact he can have with an incredible performance in the season opener. The most promising sign, however, was his desire and competitive spirit evident in his celebrations with both the crowd and his team-mates throughout the game. The Ben Barba show will be on air next Saturday in Perpignan.
Holbrook’s Class Act Is Coming To Fruition
Holbrook took over a rather weary St Helens side in May of last year that had seemingly been blunted by Keiron Cunningham and Co. Last season, despite inheriting somewhat of a sinking ship, Holbrook seemed to get an instant reaction out of his players. Now after a full pre-season with the squad, the Australian – formerly coach of the Australia under-21s and the Sydney City Roosters – seems to have instilled a new level of intensity in his side that looks to be title-worthy.
Ben Barba’s New Best Friend
Mark Percival might feel slightly aggrieved about Ben Barba receiving the Man of the Match award after scoring a hat-trick of tries himself, if it weren’t for Barba setting up all three of them. Percival, however, did send Barba in for his first try and the two seem to be forming a formidable partnership from the back-end of last season. Long may it continue.
Still Hope For Castleford
Realistically, this was the first game of the season so it would be erroneous to sensationalise either teams performance. Quite often in games in the opening rounds of the season score lines can be exaggerated both ways, often because the dominant team either has a faltering attack, and therefore can’t score as many points as they would normally, or the weaker team is largely off the pace and is found out with a unrepresentatively large margin. In this case, Castleford are clearly the latter. St Helens are definitely the better side but Castleford seemed lethargic and not with the pace of the game on Friday, which was further not helped by the discrepancy in ruck speed between the two sides. As a result, St Helens stretched their margin probably a lot more than it would have otherwise been. Castleford are a side with a bunch of very professional players who won’t take this loss lightly, and after hearing Daryl Powell’s post game comments, I’d expect a reaction from next week onward.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
St Helens coach Justin Holbrook:
“We’re off to a great start. Obviously, Castleford will be disappointed but from our end I couldn’t have asked for any more.”
On Ben Barba: “He was really good, especially when we were down to 12 men when he comes up with that big tackle and scored in the next play.
“Special players can produce special plays and he did two in two minutes. I always thought Benny was going to produce some things that he’s done.”
Castleford coach Daryl Powell:
“We were pretty poor. I thought St Helens were excellent and put us under a lot of pressure. I knew they would challenge us, I just didn’t expect such a poor attitude from us.
“We had prepared pretty well, it was a little bit of a rude awakening. I thought our pack was appalling, we have a fair bit of work to do over the next few weeks.
“There is no way of dressing it up. Certainly in terms of attitude, commitment and effort, it was near the bottom in my time at the club. It was hugely disappointing, they turned us over big style.”
ST HELENS 46
Tries: Percival (3), Barba (2), Taia (2), Lomax
Goals: Richardson (7)
Drop Goals: n/a
Drop Goals: n/a
St Helens: Barba, Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Richardson, Amor, Roby, Thompson, Peyroux, Taia, Wilkin.
Interchanges: Fages, Walmsley, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Knowles.
Castleford: Roberts, Minikin, Webster, Shenton, Eden, Trueman, Gale, Moors, McShane, Green, Holmes, McMeeken, Massey.
Interchanges: Millington, Milner, Sene-Lefao, Cook.
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