Sam Taylor previews a repeat of last years Grand Final as St Helens take on Salford. This is what we have to look forward to.
Saints go into the match with a settled squad from last season after making no signings and that’s no surprise after they walked the league last year. They only lost four games all season and will want to carry on where they left off by beating Salford.
Kristian Woolf and the St Helens hierarchy decided to only have one hit out in pre-season when they took on London Broncos for Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook’s testimonial where they ran out 36-6 winners.
Salford Red Devils
Salford made their first Grand Final against all the odds last season. Ian Watson has made some shrewd signings in Luke Yates, Kevin Brown and Sebastine Ikahihifo in the hope they can emulate last season despite losing Jackson Hastings.
Salford had a decen pre-season as they beat Swinton Lions and Leigh Centurions convincingly. They came up short last week against Warrington in Mike Cooper’s testimonial losing 26-10.
St Helens start the season without the influential trio of Tommy Makinson, James Roby and Morgan Knowles. This opens up opportunities for Aaron Smith and James Bentley to put their claim forward of being Roby’s understudy while Jack Welsby is likely to start on the wing.
There is a welcome return for 2019 Super League Young Player of Year Matty Lees after he suffered a serious injury late last season. Young half-back Lewis Dodd is named in the 21 man squad however he is unlikely to feature.
St Helens 21-man squad: 1. Lachlan Coote, 3. Kevin Naiqama, 4. Mark Percival, 5. Regan Grace, 6. Jonny Lomax, 7. Theo Fages, 8. Alex Walmsley, 10. Luke Thompson, 11. Zeb Taia, 12. Dom Peyroux, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 15. Matty Lees, 16. Kyle Amor, 17. Jack Ashworth, 18. Joseph Paulo, 19. Aaron Smith, 20. James Bentley, 21, Matty Costello, 22. Jack Welsby, 23. Joe Batchelor, 27. Lewis Dodd.
Salford Red Devils
Salford are could hand out debuts to Dan Sarginson, Kevin Brown, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Luke Yates, Chris Atkin, James Greenwood and Rhys Williams. Ex-Saints players Adam Walker and Mark Flanagan are also included in the squad.
Ed Chamberlain and Ryan Landon are the noticeable absentees from the squad.
Salford Red Devils 21-man squad: 1. Niall Evalds, 3. Kris Welham, 4. Dan Sarginson, 5. Krisnan Inu, 6. Tui Lolohea, 7. Kevin Brown, 8. Lee Mossop 9. Joey Lussick, 10. Gil Dudson, 12. Pauli Pauli, 13. Tyrone McCarthy, 14. Sebastine Ikahihifo, 15. Adam Walker, 16. Greg Burke, 17. Luke Yates, 18. Chris Atkin, 19. Mark Flanagan, 20. Josh Johnson, 21. James Greenwood, 22. Rhys Williams, 23. Ken Sio.
This stat gets brought up most years but Salford have not beaten St Helens away for over 40 years. They have come close however in recent years. In 2017 Salford led 24-8 with seven minutes left before Saints scored three tries and then Matty Smith slotted over a drop goal on the hooter to win the game. Last season James Bentley scored a late dubious try to give Saints victory.
BATTLE TO WATCH
The most interesting battle will be in the hooker position. Joey Lussick was just as important as Jackson Hastings in my opinion in Salford’s success last season. He is dangerous from dummy half especially if Salford get on the front foot. He is likely to come up against either Aaron Smith or James Bentley which will be a massive test for either of the youngsters. Bentley by all accounts has impressed Woolf in pre-season so it is an exciting match up.
Venue: The Totally Wicked Stadium