Wakefield Trinity   16
St. Helens  32
3rd Sep 2023
Super League

3 - Konrad Hurrell

2022 SLGF 2023 WCC

5 - Jonathan Bennison

2022 SLGF

7 - Lewis Dodd

2021 SLGF 2023 WCC

10 - George Delaney

11 - Sione Matautia

2021 SLGF 2022 SLGF 2023 WCC

12 - Joe Batchelor

2021 RLCCF 2021 SLGF 2022 SLGF

13 - James Bell

2023 WCC

15 - Sam Royle

16 - Dan Norman

17 - Moses Mbye

Age in brackets is at time of match - Total average age for this team is 0 - ** non-playing sub

COACH : Paul Wellens

(2022-10-05 : 2023-12-31 )



MATCH REPORT : Match report and the State of the Saints in September, 2023 by top analyst and acclaimed reporter, Stephen Orford.

A sixth consecutive league win saw Saints keep pace with the top two on Sunday afternoon.

At the conclusion of affairs, there was a three-way tie at the top of Super League with only points difference keeping the champions below Wigan and Catalans in the table. Meanwhile for Wakefield, this 32-16 loss edges them closer to the trap door and at least a year in the Championship. That is until IMG decree that their ground is only the 74th worst in the UK and hand back Trinity’s Super League licence.

Saints’ boss Paul Wellens made a couple of changes to the side which had cruised past Castleford Tigers last week. Konrad Hurrell returned from a calf injury while Matty Lees was available again after a two-game suspension. Ben Davies’ run of six straight appearances was brought to an end while Morgan Knowles was out with a groin injury.

Trinity coach Marl Applegarth had to make several changes to his 17. It was an almost entirely new back line from the one which played in last week’s 20-0 loss at Salford. Will Dagger came in at fullback for Max Jowitt (though he didn’t last long), Lee Kershaw stepped in for 30p Lee Tom Lineham and there was a new centre partnership of Jack Croft and Josh Griffin.

In the pack Renouf Antoni came off the bench to replace Jai Whitbread. Jay Pitts moved from second row to loose forward and Liam Kay dropped to the bench. Kevin Proctor missed out altogether as his bid to become the worst NRL import in Super League history gathers momentum.

At this stage of the season there is a good argument to suggest that winning is the only meaningful currency. Though the league leadership is not exactly coveted a top two finish remains a significant advantage over those finishing between third and sixth. As long as they keep winning the fact that Saints can’t seem to find an 80-minute performance at the moment isn’t doing any real harm. They are doing enough in the short bursts when the passes stick to make sure they take home the two competition points. This was another display of that type, at times frustrating but ultimately a case of job done.

They started quickly. Jonny Lomax was over for the first try of the afternoon within the first two minutes. Hurrell played a big part in it, receiving Jack Welsby’s pass before effectively running over Innes Senior and finding Lomax in support on his inside. Lomax had been involved in the move before it reached Welsby and was justly rewarded for staying alert enough to follow up Hurrell’s break. It was Lomax’s ninth try of the season and the 131st of a Saints career which now stretches to 14 years.

Yet as quickly as Saints started they fell back into a slumber to allow Trinity to get back into the game. Ex-Saint Matty Ashurst got over just a few minutes after Lomax’s score. Ashurst was left with a clear run to the line after a fine offload by Romain Franco. Dagger landed the extras to lock the scores up again at 6-6.

Having been persuaded that they needed it Saints soon moved into another gear. It was another productive day for Tommy Makinson who has now scored 10 tries in his last five games and is one of only three men with 20 or more in Super League in 2023. Not only that but his second try moved him into eighth position in the list of Super League’s all-time try scorers. All time being the Sky Sports definition of all time which means since 1996. Still, it’s an impressive achievement.

Makinson’s feats have sparked discussion about his position in the pantheon of great wingers in the Super League era. If we are talking about the business of try-scoring then Josh Charnley, Jermaine McGillvary and Ryan Hall are all ahead of Makinson on that try scorers list. But when you add in Makinson’s defensive qualities and his leadership skills you can see why he is in the conversation. And that is before you look at his medal collection which includes five Grand Final wins, a Challenge Cup win and a World Club Challenge, not to mention winning the Golden Boot in 2018 after being voted the international player of that year. Take all of that into account and his case strengthens even further.

Makinson is famous for his flying finishes. Nobody has benefitted more from the change in the rules which saw the corner post become part of the field of play. The imitation this has sparked from other Super League wingers is the sincerest form of flattery to the Saints man. He displayed his talents in this area again for his first try in this one as another sumptuous Welsby pass gave Makinson just enough space to dive over and plant the ball down one-handed before a bewildered Senior could even formulate the idea in his head that he might try to stop him.

Makinson’s second was pure cheek, Franco looked to have routinely fielded a Lewis Dodd territory finder but managed to emerge from the ensuing tackle sans rugby ball. By the time he rose to his feet Franco had a plum view of Makinson joyfully streaking away for the score.

By then Saints had already crossed twice more and had taken a 20-6 lead into the break. James Roby grabbed his first of his farewell season, getting off the nude run and notching the 117th of his record breaking career in the red vee. It was the result of another Trinity mistake as Dodd’s bomb was spilled on the goal-line giving the skipper a fairly simple task. It means he has now scored at least one try in each of the 20 seasons which make up his extraordinary career.

Next to go over was a player at the other end of his career in Jon Bennison. The winger had a stroll in the left hand corner after Welsby’s offload presented Mark Percival with a two on one. The Saints centre had converted two of Saints’ four first half tries.

Wakefield had offered a response of sorts before Makinson’s second. Lee Kershaw was back in the side in place of Lineham. He marked his 14th appearance of the year with a couple of scores. The first after Kay, Mason Lino and Croft had combined to put him over on the right and the second to round off the try scoring when Croft again fed him after good work down the short side by Liam Hood. That only reduced the arrears to 16 because Dodd had claimed his seventh of the season. Bennison turned creator for that one as his inside ball gave the halfback all the space he needed.

Though they managed a win despite rarely going through the gears it wasn’t all good news for Saints. In his first game back from injury Hurrell managed to aggravate the calf problem he had just overcome and will be out for a few weeks according to Wellens. The Tongan would have missed the visit of Leigh this week in any case having been handed a ban for dangerous contact on Dagger. The hit on the Wakefield man as he set Senior free for a first half raid wasn’t particularly late, though arguably late enough by modern standards. Having said that, from the one wide angle camera offered by Saints TV there is more than a suspicion of use of the shoulder.

Referee Marcus Griffiths did not penalise the challenge, a fact which means either that he didn’t see it at all (and nor did either of his touch judges) or he fundamentally disagreed with the view of the Match Review Panel (MRP) when they looked at it on Monday (September 4). Griffiths only gets one look at full speed so maybe a disparity between his interpretation and that of the MRP isn’t that wild of an idea.

None of which helps move the focus of the post game social media chat from refereeing decisions (and, depressingly, homophobic slurs) to record breaking try scoring feats or Welsby’s absurd passing range. The suspension is also in keeping with the MRP’s troubling insistence that any challenge resulting in injury is ban-worthy. The unfortunate Dagger suffered ligament damage in the incident and looks set to miss the remaining three games of Wakefield’s fight against the drop. Yet punishing players based on the physical damage caused by their actions seems to leave a little too much to dumb luck for my tastes.

The stats suggest that Saints’ backs did most of the damage in terms of gaining ground. Makinson was top of these particular pops with 160, while Percival (130), Welsby (115) and Bennison (107) all made significant contributions. Yet Saints’ top forward was Sione Mata’utia with 104. The former Kangaroo is enjoying an impressive spell of form since returning for the win over Huddersfield in mid-August. Handy then that he has agreed a new deal at the club which will see him remain a Saint until the end of 2024 with an option for another year after that. Great news for all connected with Saints. Except perhaps Sam Royle who despite featuring in the last six might find minutes hard to come by once Mata’utia, Joe Batchelor and Curtis Sironen are all fit at the same time. And not banned, obviously.

Kershaw led the Wakefield effort with 139 metres with Franco just one behind on 138. Griffin managed 134 and Croft 100 to go with his two assists. Griffin was the only member of the Trinity pack who featured in the 100+ club.

Lees had his customary 30 tackles in his comeback game, a tally that bettered that of all Saints except Batchelor who racked up 36. David Fifita, a man more known for spectacularly demolishing defences than for his high work rate was Trinity’s hardest working defender with 32 tackles. Both sides came up with 12 errors, mostly in the second half which prevented the game from ever really catching fire.

Yet I remind you again that the ‘w’ is the most important factor in September and October. This latest success leaves Saints with three games which - if they can win out - provides them with a real opportunity to finish in the top two. Who knows?….Roby may even get the chance to avoid a grimace while hoisting the League Leaders Shield aloft for what would be the a fourth time.

Leigh Leopards are the visitors this week fresh off the back of a floodlight-assisted win over Huddersfield. That snapped a two-game losing streak for Adrian Lam’s side. After winning the Challenge Cup for the first time in 52 years they may have sobered up just in time to have a real tilt at going deep in the playoffs. That 80-minute performance I’ve been banging on about these last few weeks might be required to hold them off.

Which is not something which could be said of Wakefield on this evidence.

Wakefield: Dagger, Kershaw, Croft, Franco, I Senior, Lino, Gale, Atoni, Hood, Dowden, Ashurst, Griffin, Pitts. Interchanges: Kaye, Fifita, Battye, Eseh

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