Table toppers St. Helens host Catalan Dragons in round fourteen of this year’s Betfred Super League, hoping to continue their winning ways after thumping Salford 60-10 last time out. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the clash.
Ben Barba has passed fitness tests and is included in Saints’ squad after his involvement was in doubt after being stretchered off during the big win at Salford last week.
Matty Lees is suspended following his dismissal at the AJ Bell Stadium, while Justin Holbrook recalls James Roby and Adam Swift for the visit of the Dragons.
St Helens 19-man squad: Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Ryan Morgan, Mark Percival, Adam Swift, Theo Fages, Matty Smith, James Roby, Kyle Amor, Zeb Taia, Jon Wilkin, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Luke Douglas, Morgan Knowles, Luke Thompson, Dom Peyroux, Danny Richardson, Regan Grace, Ben Barba.
Steve McNamara drafts in Iain Thornley and hooker Alrix Da Costa as replacements for the injured David Mead and Mika Simon.
With the exception of injuries, the Dragons will be expected to field the same starting line up that beat Hull FC 25-24 last time out, with Tony Gigot hoping to put in another sterling performance after last weekend’s heroics.
Catalans 19-man squad: Jodie Broughton, Iain Thornley, Brayden Wiliame, Samisoni Langi, Remi Casty, Sam Moa, Louis Anderson, Benjamin Garcia, Greg Bird, Julian Bousquet, Vincent Duport, Jason Baitieri, Michael McIlorum, Lewis Tierney, Benjamin Jullien, Antoni Maria, Alrix Da Costa, Tony Gigot, Josh Drinkwater.
HEAD TO HEAD
St Helens have already beaten the French side once this season, winning 21-12 in France back in February.
Ben Barba was the star man that day and, with only two scores the difference in the reverse fixture, will need to be in good form again if his side are to come away with the win.
Danny Richardson kicked nine points at the Stade Gilbert Brutus in the victory and he will be expected to repeat that come 7:45pm on Thursday.
One of the Dragons’ try scorers that night- David Mead- is missing through injury, so his teammates will have to prove their resilience and face the league’s highest scoring team without him.
Despite St. Helens going into this one as clear favourites, they have been beaten this season so if Catalan can apply early pressure and force mistakes from the Saints backline, this game may be much closer than people expect.
KEY BATTLE – Ben Barba (St. Helens) v Tony Gigot (Catalans Dragons)
This week’s key battle isn’t positional, but instead a comparison of the sides’ most dangerous players.
Barba is Super League’s leading try-scorer after his hat-trick against Salford last week and will expect himself to get on the scoreboard once again.
His flair and creativity is crucial to the Saints’ success and, although he didn’t score in the reverse fixture, the Australian is the one to watch.
Tony Gigot is equally important to the travelling Dragons side, highlighted by his match-winning drop-goal against a strong Hull FC side on Saturday.
The Frenchman does tend to influence matches more whilst playing at home, but his kicking quality is undeniable so if the French club are going to come away from the Totally Wicked Stadium with the two points, he will have to put in an almighty performance.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday 3rd May
Venue: Totally Wicked Stadum
Referee: R. Hicks
WHO WILL WIN?