Yates' view: From agony to ecstasy as Alex makes triumphant return

Alex Walmsley. Picture: SWPix
Alex Walmsley. Picture: SWPix

Some 15 months after leaving the Halliwell Jones Stadium a forlorn figure, Alex Walmsley returned to the scene of a career-threatening injury for the first time on Friday night and on this occasion had a smile as wide as the nearby Manchester Ship Canal.

The 29-year-old Saints' prop, who spent most of last season battling to recover from a broken neck, may have been a little bit apprehensive pre-match after the horrendous injury he suffered at the same venue in March 2018 but certainly didn't show any outward signs.

Not only that, he ended a typical block-busting display by snatching a crucial 77th minute try - his third of the season - and at the same time came close to ensuring that the League Leaders' Shield will remain at the Totally Wicked Stadium for at least another year.

The England international told his Twitter followers:''Tough game but made up with the two points and to get over the line.

''Thanks also to our fans for their great support.''

It was without question a high octane clash involving the top two teams in the Betfred Super League and even Saints' head coach Justin Holbrook confessed later it had been the toughest-ever match in which he had been involved.

The will to win in both camps was evident by the ferocious manner in which the encounter started and within the first few minutes St Helens hooker Aaron Smith, playing only his 11th senior game, was on the receiving end of a bone-crunching charge and spent around five minutes being treated on the field by the club's medical team and then whisked immediately to a nearby hospital.

But Saints reported yesterday (Sunday) that the 22-year-old hooker had been discharged from hospital with scans revealing no fracture, nerve damage or serious injury.

He did sustain whiplash to his neck but the club say if he continued to make positive progress this week could have a chance to return to the squad for Friday’s trip to Hull FC. Tough guys, these RL players !

At the same time, Smith's unfortunate departure opened the door for fellow 22-year-old James Bentley to emerge from the bench for his 10th first team appearance - and the former Championship Young Player of the Year didn't let anyone down.

He had the ball in his hands only moments after joining the fray and grew in stature the longer the game progressed.

The ex-Bradford forward could hardly have expected such an early call on the night, which could so easily have come as a culture shock in the circumstances, but looks like another Saints' youngster capable of holding his own at the top level of the sport.

Teams - Warrington Wolves: Mamo, Charnley, King, Goodwin, Lineham, Austin, Clark, Patton, Hill, Cooper, Currie, Hughes, Akauola. Interchanges J.Clark, Tasi, Philbin, Davis.
Tries: Mamo (76).
Penalties: Patton (3/3)

St Helens: Coote; Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace; Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Smith, Thompson, Knowles, Peyroux, LMS. Interchanges: Amor, Paulo, Lees, Bentley.

Saints tries: Percival (60), Thompson (73), Walmsley (77).
Goals: Coote (3/3).

Penalties: Coote (1/1).

Drop goals: Coote (1/1).

Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield)

Half-time: 4-0.

Full-time 10-21.