High flying St Helens take on Championship side Halifax in Saturday’s second semi-final of the Challenge Cup.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Despite losing last week to London, Saints still top the Super League table by 10 points and look certain to win the League Leaders Shield. Saints have been comfortably the best team in the country and will be looking to being the first team to win the treble twice. However they have made a habit of losing semi-finals as they have lost their last six they have been involved in.
Halifax’s cup run has been one of the stories of the season. However they have struggled in the Championship this season. They currently sit eighth in the table and since winning their quarter final tie against Bradford, they have won one, drawn one and lost five.
Saints controversially left out a number of key men against London. This week they will welcome back Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Theo Fages, Alex Walmlsey and Luke Thompson as well as captain James Roby who has missed the last month through injury. They will however be without Lachlan Coote with a knee injury so it looks as if Lomax will start at full-back with Fages and Danny Richardson in the halves.
St Helens 19-man squad: 1. Jonny Lomax, 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Kevin Naiqama, 4. Mark Percival, 5. Regan Grace, 6. Theo Fages, 7. Danny Richardson, 8. Alex Walmsley, 9. James Roby, 10. Luke Thompson, 12. Joseph Paulo, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook 15. Morgan Knowles, 16. Kyle Amor, 17. Dom Peyroux, 19. Matty Lees, 20. Jack Ashworth, 22. James Bentley, 24. Matty Costello
Halifax have made two changes to their squad with Simon Grix deciding to go with his brother Scott at full-back instead of Quentin Laulu-Togagae. Liam Cooper is also named in the squad despite being on-loan from Saints. There is heaps of Super League experience in side with the likes of Scott Murrell, Will Sharp, Kevin Larroyer and Ben Kavanagh all involved.
Halifax 19-man squad: 2. Shaun Robinson 3. Steve Tyrer 4. Chester Butler 5. Will Sharp 6. Scott Murrell 7. Ben Johnston 8. Dan Fleming 9. Ben Kaye 10. Jacob Fairbank 12. Ed Barber 14. Brandon Moore 16. Kevin Larroyer 17. Ben Kavanagh 10. Elliot Morris 20. James Saltonstall 25. Liam Cooper 30. Scott Grix 35. Adam Tangata
HEAD TO HEAD
The most famous meeting between these two sides came in the 1987 Challenge Cup Final when Fax shocked Saints by beating the favourites 19-18. Saints fans still have nightmares of John Pendlebury forcing a knock on by Mark Elia with the try line begging. The two sides have not met competitively since Halifax were in Super League in 2003.
Danny Richardson (St Helens) v Scott Murrell (Team name)
There has yet to be conformation on how long Lachlan Coote is out for therefore there is another opportunity for Richardson to stake his claim for a starting jersey. Richardson also started last week against London as was one of their better performers as he provided some spark and creativity by making a number of breaks, including one where he beat five or six players.
Scott Murrell does not look like your usual stand-off. He has the physique of a prop but he has not lost his creativity from his days at Hull KR. If Fax are to cause the biggest upset in the history of the Challenge Cup then Murrell is going to have to provide a performance that Jonathon Thurston would be proud of.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Venue: University of Bolton Stadium
Referee: Chris Kendall
WHO WILL WIN?
Surely Fax can’t cause an upset. Saints to win by 40+.