Kristian Woolf pleased with St Helens’ start to the season

St Helens coach Kristian Woolf was delighted with his side’s performance as they began the defence of their Betfred Super League title with a 29-6 victory over Salford at Headingley.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 9:15 pm
Updated Friday, 26th March 2021, 9:20 pm
St Helens' Mark Percival celebrates with Matty Lees, Theo Fages, Regan Grace, Jack Welsby and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook after scoring. Picture: SWPix

The Red Devils, who had five players making their debuts, had their moments and trailed only 13-6 until the champions cut loose with three tries in the final quarter.

“I thought it was a good game of footy,” Woolf said. “Both teams came out with good intensity and I thought we did a good job coming through with the win.

“I thought in the first 40 minutes we put our attack together really well. A lot of things didn’t go our way in the first half but we didn’t allow that to frustrate us.”

Woolf was impressed with the debut of second-rower Joel Thompson and says fellow newcomer Agnatius Paasi caught his eye until being forced off with a head knock early in the second half that will rule him out of next week’s game against Hull KR.

“You don’t want to see your team-mate go down but he’s fine, he’s recovered really well,” Woolf said.

“I thought he was really good the time he was on the field. He showed what sort of impact he’s going to have for us.”

Woolf left out full-back Lachlan Coote after he missed part of pre-season training with a few niggles and also brought centre Mark Percival off as a precaution shortly after he had scored his first try since the 2019 Grand Final.

“Mark had a little bit of a twinge,” he said. “We don’t think it’s anything serious but obviously with his history we needed to be smart.

“Lachlan could have played but he’s had a couple of niggles and we just didn’t think it was a smart move to play him tonight. He should be available to play next week.”

Richard Marshall, who left his role as assistant coach at St Helens after November’s Grand Final, was able to take some positives from a convincing defeat.

“It’s a tough one,” he said. “There were moments we were really pleased about. At times our defence was really good and we had that Salford never-say-die attitude.

“They had a couple of late scores which didn’t reflect our true efforts. There were a few individual errors which cost us as well.

“We didn’t capitalise on our try. I thought the game was in the balance at that point and, if we had been a bit more resilient with the ball and more disciplined, it might have been different.

“It’s a new team and we were a bit rusty. It will take time for us to gel. Losing to St Helens won’t define our season.

“I thought Elijah Taylor was outstanding and young Jack Wells picked us up when he came off the bench.”

Marshall revealed that hooker Andy Ackers missed the game after being forced to self-isolate for Covid-19 reasons.