Yates' view: A long season ahead and it would be foolhardy to write off the Saints

Jonny Lomax challenged by Luther Burrell and Jason Clark. Picture: SWPix
Jonny Lomax challenged by Luther Burrell and Jason Clark. Picture: SWPix

The boot was firmly on the other foot - and there was little battered and bruised St Helens could do about it!

Kristian Woolf's champions were on the receiving end of a 19-0 drubbing at a tension-charged Halliwell-Jones Stadium on Thursday night - a ground where their previous setbacks against Warrington Wolves can almost be counted on one hand.

Saints could argue that the absence of key players and the withdrawal of prop Alex Walmsley with a calf injury in the warm-up and the departure of Mark Percival early in the second half due to a shoulder problem disrupted their game plan and rhythm to such an extent that they were a pale shadow of the side which ripped Salford Red Devils apart six days earlier.

But Warrington, too, were unable to field their first choice starting line-up yet still posted two precious points on the board against one of their potential title rivals - celebrating their dominance at the final hooter as if they had won the Betfred Super League crown, the League Leaders' Shield and the Coral Challenge Cup all on the same night!

It was a little over the top, both on and off the field, at such an early stage of the new season, but totally understandable after losing a shed full of their previous league encounters against Saints since the birth of summer rugby in 1996.

At the same time, the result will be salutary warning to the Grand Final winners that retaining their crown will be much tougher as every other club will be desperately keen to bring them down a peg or two.

Being rocked by a spate of injuries at the beginning of the new campaign - something Saints have not experienced too often in recent years - is part and parcel of rugby league and they will need to soldier on, whatever the circumstances, with this weekend's trip to Hull FC - tipped in many quarters to lift a piece of silverware in 2020 - and the equally daunting World Club Challenge showdown against NRL champions Sydney Roosters on Saturday, February 22. on the horizon.,

Victory in both matches is vital if much-needed confidence is to be restored in a group of players who, on current evidence, will find it difficult to top their unprecedented 16 point lead over neighbours Wigan Warriors after 27 rounds of Super Leagues last year.

But there is still a great deal of water to flow under the bridge and it would be foolhardy to already write off Saints' chances of retaining their crown.