Yates’ verdict: Derby day set to be a show-stopper

Saints head coach Justin Holbrook is relishing Good Friday's derby clash
Saints head coach Justin Holbrook is relishing Good Friday's derby clash
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The stage is set, the players are waiting in the wings, and the audience is anticipating a show-stopper.

Not the latest Andrew Lloyd Webber musical but locally an event which has been firing the imagination and emotions of fans since their first meeting in the 1895-96 season ... a Saints-Wigan derby showdown.

The two old adversaries lock horns at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Good Friday afternoon and find themselves in a position which is familiar to both clubs at Easter ... slogging it out for the right to top the table.

Saints hold the upper hand at this stage of the Super League campaign - six wins from seven matches - but the Warriors are only two points adrift of their deadly rivals and have a game in hand.

Therefore, it is crucial, as far as St Helens were concerned, that they quickly erased the memory of the previous week’s 28-20 home defeat against champions Leeds Rhinos - their first setback of 2018 - when they travelled to Hull KR on Friday night and they responded in a positive manner with a 30-6 victory.

The two hard-earned and well-merited points will put them in the right frame of mind to overcome the Cherry and Whites who won the last Super League clash ‘on enemy territory’ 26-16 last September.

Head coach Justin Holbrook said: “We were disappointing against Leeds and it was all about how we responded at Hull KR. I thought we did that well against a team which hadn’t played at home for a while and handled the situation, even though I knew it would be tough.

“Apart from the Leeds game, our defence has been good and I was delighted to see the boys get that right on this occasion.”

Holbrook added: “In attack, I thought we were a lot more settled, too. We have been a little bit lost over the last couple of weeks so it was good to see it come together.”

He went on: “I felt our forwards really stood up and that helped the likes of Ben Barba play off the back of them. Luke Douglas, Luke Thompson, Kyle Amor and Louie McCarthy-Scarbrook were also outstanding.”

Match facts - Rovers tries: Shaw. Goals: Shaw (1 /1).

Saints tries: Thompson, Barba (2), Lomax, Peyroux

Goals: Richardson (5 /6).

Half-time 6-14. Full-time 6-30.

Referee: Liam Moore.

Attendance: 7,724.

Teams - Rovers: 1. Adam Quinlan; 5. Ryan Shaw, 4. Andrew Heffernan, 3. Thomas Minns, 36. Justin Carney; 7. Danny McGuire, 24. Christopher Atkin; 21. Robert Mulhern, 18. George Lawler, 10. Mose Masoe, 11. Maurice Blair, 17. Chris Clarkson, 13. Ben Kavanagh.

Subs: 12. James Greenwood, 15. James Donaldson, 19. Tommy Lee, 29. Jordan Walne.

Saints: 23. Ben Barba; 5. Adam Swift, 2. Tommy Makinson, 4. Mark Percival, 19. Regan Grace; 1. Jonny Lomax, 18. Danny Richardson; 10. Kyle Amor, 9. James Roby, 16. Luke Thompson, 17. Dom Peyroux, 11. Zeb Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin.

Subs: 6. Theo Fages, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Luke Douglas, 15. Morgan Knowles.