Kristian Woolf pleased to pick up no injuries ahead of Challenge Cup final

St Helens coach Kristian Woolf was delighted to emerge injury free after getting the tough work-out he sought in his side’s last match before the Challenge Cup final.

Saturday, 10th July 2021, 9:51 am
Updated Saturday, 10th July 2021, 9:52 am
Mark Percival is tackled by Wakefield's David Fifita and Yusuf Aydin. Picture: SWPix

Woolf took a gamble by fielding a close to full-strength team which was forced to battle their way to a 30-14 Super League win over Wakefield at Belle Vue.

The game looked to be going according to the script when the champions raced into a 14-0 lead after 22 minutes but Wakefield were in no mood to roll over and they got to within two points before the visitors finished with a flourish.

Saints had the bonus of prop Matty Lees making a seamless return from a broken ankle sustained in his side’s cup win over Leeds in April to boost his chances of playing against Castleford at Wembley next Saturday.

“He came though really well and I thought he looked good,” Woolf said. “He’s not done much running for a long time so to be able to perform like that, I’m really happy.

“We’ve a couple of bumps and bruises but nothing to report injury wise. The two things we wanted from the game was to come through injury free and to get a tough hit-out which we did.

“Obviously we were not at our best but the thing I liked most is that we had to fight and we did that. The last 20 minutes when we were under pressure was when we played our best footy.”

Full-back Lachlan Coote was again their chief contributor with one of Saints’ four tries and seven goals from seven attempts, 48 hours after Hull KR announced his capture for 2022.

“I think the last two weeks have been the best two games he’s had for us this year,” Woolf said.

“We will certainly miss him but we know we will get plenty of time with him in our side first.”

Woolf was also delighted with the performance of scrum-half Lewis Dodd, who scored an opportunist try on his first start of the season in the absence of the rested Theo Fages.

“He showed a couple of glimpses of what he is capable of tonight,” Woolf said. “I would have liked to see him run a bit more but he showed some real touches of class.”

Wakefield had just 17 players after hooker Kyle Wood joined the club’s lengthy injury list and full-back Max Jowitt was forced out with Covid-19 related issues but coach Chris Chester was proud of his players’ efforts.

“We missed a real good opportunity to beat a good St Helens side,” Chester said. “I thought we showed plenty of spirit and character and toughness.

“In the first half we faced a bit of adversity and came through the other side. We played some attacking rugby and had enough ball to put more scores on.

“But we seemed a bit dis-connected with the ball in the second half. I thought we showed intent in defence and we were causing problems for them, certainly on the left edge, but we kind of went away from that.

“There are lots to be positive about. It shows how far this group has come. You don’t get many better opportunities to beat St Helens, irrespective of who got out on the field.”

Chester confirmed Wakefield will play their postponed fixture against Salford at the AJ Bell Stadium next Friday, on the eve of the Cup final.