Yates' view: Saints red hot favourites to start season with a win over new look Salford

Saints open the season on Friday with a Grbnd Final repeat against Salford
Saints open the season on Friday with a Grbnd Final repeat against Salford

Only three clubs came close to lowering Saints' colours in front of their home fans last year - Leeds Rhinos, Salford Red Devils and Castleford Tigers.

The trio could have plundered the points in drama-filled encounters but like all other visitors to the Totally Wicked Stadium in 2019 they left empty-handed.

Leeds surrendered a 22-10 half-time lead and finished up losing 27-22 in early February. Then, in May, the Red Devils, who went on to cause a sensation by reaching the Grand Final, suffered a similar fate - going down 32-30 - before Regan Grace's solitary try earned Justin Holbrook's boys a 4-0 victory over the Tigers in late August.

Now the stage is for a repeat of the Old Trafford title decider as champions Saints entertain boss Ian Watson's boys from the other end of the East Lancs Road in their opening fixture of the campaign and with Aussie coach Kristian Woolf at the helm for the first time..

Saints won the final on the back of a comfortable 23-6 triumph, thanks to tries from Morgan Knowles, Zeb Taia, Mark Percival and five goals from Lachlan Coote. as well as Tommy Makinson's one and only drop goal of his career to date and will be red-hot favourites to start the season with a bang on Friday night despite the absence of skipper James Roby, Makinson. and Knowles, who are recovering from injury.

Unlike Saints ,who haven't signed any additions to their squad, Salford have been forced into to making wholesale changes in the winter and having lost key players in Man of Steel Jackson Hastings and Jake Bibby to Wigan, George Griffin to Castleford Tigers and former Saint Josh Jones to Hull FC, they are not expected to pull up any trees.

One player, who will be keen to impress, though, is the vastly experienced Kevin Brown.

The 35-year-old St Helens born half back has made nearly 350 appearances during spells at Wigan, Huddersfield Giants, Widnes Vikings and Warrington Wolves and with a full pre-season training under his belt will be rarin' to go, but naturally the large turn over in players has prompted many to doubt the club can defy expectations by reaching a second successive final.

Only time will tell if their 33/1 title odds are realistic or not.