Yates' verdict: Saints will still need to be on full alert in cup semi-final

Saints struck the first psychological blow ahead of Saturday's Challenge Cup semi-final tie against Hull FC when the two protagonists clashed in Super League action at the Totally Wicked Stadium last night (Friday).

Saturday, 29th May 2021, 10:46 am
Updated Saturday, 29th May 2021, 10:48 am
Joe Batchelor runs through the Hull defence to score. Picture: SWPix

They simply cut the Airlie Birds to shreds, scoring six tries which included a first-ever hat-trick at senior level for the versatile Jack Welsby and cruised serenely to a 34-16 victory.

But how the result will affect the mindset of either team as they battle for a spot at Wembley is anyone's guess.

Saints certainly out-smarted their Humberside rivals in every department in Friday's encounter - and in all honesty they could have won by a much larger margin had they cashed-in on all the chances which came their way and it's not surprising they will be red-favourites to claim their 10th successive win over the Black and Whites.

But sudden death rugby often turns up the unexpected and Saints will have to be on full alert from start to finish if they want to progress and then lift the famous piece of silverware for the first time since 2008 when Hull were also the victims.

It would also be foolhardy, however, to take anything for granted after the dress rehearsal turned into a one-sided romp - no doubt inspired by the hosts scoring within 90 seconds of the kick-off.

It followed the first of a catalogue of uncharacteristic errors by coach Brett Hodgson's outfit who surely can't play as poorly again. Or was it a case of scintillating Saints making them look second best? The answer is just around the corner.

Saints lost centre Mark Pecival and Agnatius Paasi due to tight hamstrings but head coach Krisitian Woolf said it was a precautionary measure to withdraw both and he expects them to be fit for the semi-final.

Regan Grace will also be back in the fold after suffering concussion in the defeat at the Catalans Dragons and there is a possibility fellow winger Tommy Makinson (foot injury) will be fit to return, leaving Woolf a nice selection headache.