Holbrook hoping to reignite Saints magic

Justin Holbrook is hoping to reignite the form which saw his trounce Hull at the Magic weekend
Justin Holbrook is hoping to reignite the form which saw his trounce Hull at the Magic weekend

Justin Holbrook is hoping for some more magic as he attempts to keep alive his club’s flagging Betfred Super League semi-final hopes.

Holbrook enjoyed a fairytale start to his career as a head coach when he guided Saints to a stunning 45-0 rout of Hull at the Magic Weekend in Newcastle in May but three defeats in their last five matches have left them five points adrift of the all-important fourth spot in the table.

Hull, one of the four teams above them in the ladder, are again the opponents for Holbrook’s men, this time at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday night, and the Australian admits victory is crucial.

“That was a great game up there at Magic Weekend,” Holbrook said. “It’d be great to get another result this Friday.

“I’ve said it all along, there are so many uncertainties in our game. It is such an even competition. I know we need to string some wins together but you’re not to know what other teams are going to do.

“If people say we’re not going to make the top four, I totally don’t believe that at all. I know we have to win games to give ourselves a chance but other teams could lose games.”

It could also be a decisive night at the other end of the table on Friday when Huddersfield and Warrington face must-win home games.

The eighth-placed Giants can take another step towards safety while at the same time condemning opponents Widnes to the Qualifiers.

Huddersfield coach Rick Stone, coming up to the first anniversary of his appointment, could do little to prevent his side becoming embroiled in a relegation battle 12 months ago but is happy that they can control their own fate this time.

“It wasn’t a good place to be last year but we’ve got our destiny in our hands,” Stone said. “We’ve probably got to win two of our last three games to secure the Super 8s status. We start with Widnes and once we get past that we worry about the next one. We can’t afford to look too far ahead.

“Widnes are playing a bit better than where their position in the table suggests. We are quietly confident we can get on the right track and I think we have enough personnel to get us across the line.”

Warrington, three points behind the Giants with just three rounds left, will have a keen eye on the result from the John Smith’s Stadium as they host bottom club Leigh, who are already guaranteed to be in the Qualifiers.

Wolves coach Tony Smith, who guided his side to both the League Leaders’ Shield and Grand Final in 2016, has already addressed the likelihood of a seven-match relegation battle and insists he is ready for the fight.

“In my first year I think I had 13 or 15 defeats,” said Smith, who began his Super League coaching tenure at struggling Huddersfield in 2000. “I have suffered relegation and bounced back from that.

“I haven’t had it all easy throughout my career. Certainly as a player I didn’t. I have had to battle at different stages and scratch and scrap. Some of those early experiences help you.

“In recent times there have been a few more successes but that’s all part of it. Some of the harsher lessons are learnt in the darkest times in sport and that’s what toughens you up, makes you more resilient and makes you work that bit harder.”

Leigh are seeking their first away win over Warrington for more than 30 years but they beat the Wolves in March and have also claimed the notable scalps of Wigan, St Helens and Hull in their first year back in Super League.

“It’ll be a tough game,” said Smith. “They have got a lot of experienced forwards, in particular, and some formidable backs. They have a wealth of experience there. We are going to have to be on our game.”