Fresh from booking their place in the Challenge Cup final last weekend, St Helens will look to pile the misery on out of sorts Wakefield Trinity when the two sides clash at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday night. Saints are looking to build some momentum heading into the end of season play-offs with Trinity needing a win to ease their relegation fears. Here’s everything you need to know.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Saints defeated Championship side Halifax last time out, claiming a 26-2 victory to book their place in the Challenge Cup final, despite not being at their fluent best. However, they suffered a shock defeat to bottom side London Broncos in their last Super League fixture, losing 32-12 in the capital, having fielded a second-string side due to their cup commitments the following week. That said, they are sitting pretty at the top of the Super League standings, 10 points clear of second place Warrington Wolves, and know a win on Friday will all but secure the League Leaders’ Shield for the second consecutive season, due to their far superior points difference with six games left to play.
Trinity are on a horrible run of form which has seen them turn from play-off hopefuls into relegation candidates, having lost eight of their last nine Super League matches. Their poor form continued in a 46-16 hammering by Wigan Warriors at the DW Stadium last time out and were dumped out of the Challenge Cup by Saints earlier in the season, losing 48-10 at the Totally Wicked Stadium, in early June. Danger is looming large for the Dreadnoughts, who are just two points above bottom side London, in ninth position, and have a difficult run of fixtures to end the 2019 season.
Coach Justin Holbrook announced he will be departing the Merseyside club, having agreed to lead the Gold Coast Titans in the NRL from the start of next season, and he makes three changes from the side that beat Halifax last Sunday.
Zeb Taia returns after a five-game injury absence and joins Aaron Smith and Jack Welsby in returning to the 19-man squad.
Alex Walmsley misses out after suffering an eye injury against Halifax with Morgan Knowles also sidelined after picking up an injury in the defeat to London.
Welsby replaces Matty Costello in Saints only other change to the squad.
St Helens’ 19-man squad: Lomax, Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Fages, Richardson, Roby, Thompson, Taia, Paulo, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Peyroux, Lees, Ashworth, Smith, Bentley, Welsby.
Chris Chester has made two changes to his 19-man squad, hoping to bounce back after a disappointing display against Wigan at the DW Stadium.
Danny Kirmond returns to the side having missed over a month of action through injury with Craig Kopczak also back in the squad after missing the defeat to Wigan.
David Fifita is also fit enough to retain his place in the squad, having been a late inclusion against the Warriors last time out.
Pauli Pauli and Jordan Crowther drop out of the squad with Mason Caton-Brown also not included, having left the club this week to pursue other business interests.
Wakefield’s 19-man squad: Annakin, Arundel, Batchelor, Brough, England, Fifita, Hampshire, Hirst, Jones-Bishop, Jowitt, King, Kirmond, Kopczak, Lyne, Miller, Randell, Tanginoa, Tupou, Wood.
HEAD TO HEAD
The teams have met twice already this season with Saints coming out on top on both occasions. They claimed a dramatic 24-18 success at Wakefield in round two with a last gasp Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook try securing the two points, before also beating them in the aforementioned Challenge Cup tie where they ran in eight tries.
Of the last 10 meetings between the two sides, St Helens have eight victories to Wakefield’s two, with Trinity’s last away win against Saints coming in a 16-12 success in March 2017. Saints however, have won the last four meetings between the two clubs.
Luke Thompson (St Helens) v David Fifita (Wakefield Trinity)
Whilst these two players might not directly battle each other on Friday night, the two respective props will likely have a massive influence on the outcome of the game.
Thompson has been immense for St Helens this season and scored a crucial try in their away win against Warrington in June, proving he is the man for the big occasion. He has an impressive average gain of 7.9 metres as well as making 2,007 metres with the ball this season and impressed with ball in hand in their win against Halifax last weekend.
Fifita could prove to be a real handful for Saints to deal with, if fully fit. He’s struggled to impose himself in recent weeks due to a niggling foot injury but his presence, even if not quite 100% fit, is crucial to the way Wakefield play. Fifita has made 125 tackle busts in 2019, more than any other Super League player and, like Thompson, has an impressive average gain of 7.21 metres.
The former Tonga international will need to be at his very best if he is to help his side ease their relegation fears and claim a shock win against the table toppers.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 2nd August
Venue: Totally Wicked Stadium
Referee: Marcus Griffiths
WHO WILL WIN?
This one surely has a Saints win written all over it. The Merseysiders have all but secured the League Leaders’ Shield and have been the best team in Super League, this season, by some distance. With their coach leaving at the end of the season that should only increase their motivation to send him off back to Australia on a high. Wakefield are in free fall and in serious danger of being dragged into a relegation battle making victory on Friday night extremely unlikely. St Helens to win by 30 points.