Jack Harbidge previews the semi-final clash between Catalans Dragons and St Helens at the Totally Wicked Stadium… This is what we have to look forward to.
Saints come into this off the back of consecutive losses to Salford and rivals Wigan. In both games, they failed to score more than ten points in stark contrast to their four wins prior, where they collected an aggregate of 150 points.
Catalans have won four of their last five games, with their sole loss coming against Salford following an abysmal second half performance. They come into this, however, off the back of a comprehensive victory against Leeds in which they never trailed. Catalans have also been prolific scorers of late, posting team totals of 26, 24, 34, 40, and 34 in their previous five outings.
St Helens are boosted by the return of Alex Walmsley, who served a one-game suspension for dangerous contact. Zeb Taia, James Graham, and Dominique Peyroux are all included in the 21-man squad for potentially their last appearances for the club.
St Helens 21-man squad: Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, Taia, Peyroux, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Knowles, Lees, Amor, Smith, Bentley, Welsby, Batchelor, Simm, Dodd, Graham.
Catalans will be without Michael McIlorum and Joel Tomkins through suspension. McIlorum misses out with a six game ban, while Tomkins copped eight games for inappropriate contact.
Catalans 21-man squad: Mead, Langi, Folau, Yaha, Maloney, Drinkwater, Casty, Moa, Whitley, Garcia, Bousquet, Simon, Davies, Jullien, Da Costa, Goudemand, Seguier, Baitieri, Morgue, Kasiano, S Tomkins.
St Helens are unbeaten in all games where Alex Walmsley has crossed the whitewash. Walmsley returns to the squad for this Friday’s clash fresh off the back of a one-game ban.
BATTLE TO WATCH
The battle between the two fullbacks on Friday night is certainly the match up of the night. Sam Tomkins comes into this off the back of a Man of the Match performance against Leeds Rhinos. Tomkins provided assists for three of the four Catalans tries and proved vital at the back in defence to all but orchestrate his side’s victory from the back.
Scotland international Lachlan Coote is similarly important to his side, and comes into this scoring his sides sole six points against fierce rivals Wigan. He has major tactical influence for the Saints and is exceptionally reliable defensively at fullback and while he doesn’t possess the same evasion skills as Tomkins, he makes up for it in his playmaking ability within structure.
Both players will need their forward pack to get on top of their respective opposite numbers and both sides will experience dominance through the middle at points in the game, so it will be up to these two full-backs to capitalise in conjunction with their playmakers and convert the advantage to points. Whichever does the better job will go a long way to helping their side reach the Grand Final.
Date: Friday 20th November
Venue: Totally Wicked Stadium
Kick-off: 7:45pm local