Yates’ verdict: Saints left to battle for fifth place

Former Saint Luke Walsh
Former Saint Luke Walsh
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Saints will have to play much better than they did in their final home match of the regular season against Catalans Dragons on Sunday if they are to earn fifth place in the league ladder ahead of the Super 8s.

It remains in the lap of the Gods at this moment in time and even a win at fourth-placed Wakefield Trinity this coming weekend - and that in itself is a mountainous task - will make no difference to their current standing if Hull, who currently hold fifth spot and entertain Huddersfield Giants two days earlier, have already taken the points or secured a draw.

Realistically, sixth position seems more of an option and whether that will be good enough to eventually propel Justin Holbrook's side into the top four in advance of the semi-final play-offs and then their seven title of the summer era is any body's guess.

The coach, however, is not ruling out a late season surge and with five wins from their last eight fixtures since Holbrook took over the coaching reins, he has a valid point

“If we can continue to improve then I would certainly back us in the play-offs,” insisted the Aussie.

At the same time, he will be fully conscious of the fact that his side's performance against their visitors from Perpignan on Sunday, especially in the opening 40 minutes, left a great deal to be desired and not the kind of credentials of a team hoping to repeat their 2014 Grand Final triumph over arch-rivals Wigan Warriors.

Whether complacency crept in and the players felt they only needed to turn up to topple the French strugglers is open to interpretation but they often made a rod for their own back with some weak defensive tackling.

Saints led rather fortuitously 20-18 at the interval of a topsy-turvy encounter in which the lead changed hands on a number of occasions and the second half followed a similar pattern until the hosts - seeking their seventh successive home victory of 2017 - ended the French resistance with a three-try burst in the last six minutes.

A 46-28 score line in the home side's favour was a little flattering to say the least - but credit the players for the relentless way they finished the game at a time when the Dragons threatened to pull off a shock win and only trailed by two points as the clock ticked to the 70 minutes mark.

For the second week half back Theo Fages - playing against a team from the country of his birth - was named sponsor's man of the match, scoring a try and generally leading from the front.

Again centre Mark Percival must have run his team-mate close for the individual accolade, scoring a try and landing nine goals and taking his points total for the season to 182.

Holbrook will also be pleased that Saints' seven-try haul came from different players and three via forwards Alex Walmsley and Louie McCarthy-Scarisbrick in a crucial first-half period after they had emerged from the bench, and a late Luke Thompson touch down.

But it far too close for comfort as far as the home fans were concerned until the penultimate minutes and one can only hope that if Saints face similar problems, as they are likely to do in the highly competitive Super 8s, they will respond in the same devastating fashion.

Saints tries: Fages, Walmsley, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lomax, Percival, Thompson, Morgan. Goals: Percival (9/10).

Dragons tries: Horo (2), Walsh, Gigot, Myler. Goals: Walsh (4/ 5).

Penalties - St Helens 13, Dragons 4.

Half-time*:* 20-18. Full time 46-28.

Referee: Ben Thaler.

Attendance: 10,024.

Teams - Saints: 1. Jonny Lomax; 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 28. Regan Grace; 6. Theo Fages, 24. Danny Richardson; 14. Luke Douglas, 9. James Roby, 16. Luke Thompson, 36. Zeb Taia, 18. Dominique Peyroux, 12. Jon Wilkin.

Subs: 8. Alex Walmsley, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 17. Tommy Lee, 20.

Morgan Knowles.

Dragons: 1. Tony Gigot; 33. Lewis Tierney, 3. Krisnan Inu, 18. Vincent Duport, 5. Fouad Yaha; 6. Luke Walsh, 7. Richie Myler; 8. Sam Moa, 9. Paul Aiton, 14. Julian Bousquet, 11. Louis Anderson, 12. Justin Horo, 17. Jason Baitieri.

Subs: 10. Remi Casty, 13. Greg Bird, 23. Alrix Da Costa, 32. Romain Navarrete.