Results in the build up to a new season can often be misleading - at least that’s what Saints will be hoping after they crashed to a 22-6 home defeat in a friendly against Castleford Tigers on Sunday.
However, head coach Keiron Cunningham will be looking for a far better performance when Leeds Rhinos arrive in town a week on Thursday as the race for an October date at Old Trafford gets under way.
Cas are a good side, look well drilled, and took advantage of the situation we found ourselves inSaints head coach Keiron Cunningham
Read more: Cunningham slams Smith horror tackle.
Despite his team’s lack-lustre display, in which their handling and organisation left a great deal to be desired, Cunningham took a realistic view of the outcome against a side who earlier in the week he had described as ‘top four material’ and already quoted by the bookies as 6-1 joint third favourites with St Helens to lift the coveted crown.
He said:’’This was only our second pre-season fixture and Cas looked a couple of games ahead of us.
‘’It was also tough to lose scrum half Matty Smith due to injury the previous week and difficult to adjust when playing without some one you have consistently trained with for about eight or nine weeks.
‘’But we have to readjust, find out what works, and that is what friendly games are all about’’.
Danny Richardson, Theo Fages and Tommy Lee were used at varying times but half back combinations don’t develop overnight and Saints will have to work their socks out to find the right pieces to fit the jigsaw in the next 10 days.
Cunningham said: ‘’Cas are a good side, look well drilled, and took advantage of the situation we found ourselves in.
“Their completion rate was at 90 per cent and ours was at 30 at times during the game. Stuff like that hurts you. You have to be smarter, learn and we will be a different side in a couple of weeks time.
“The biggest thing is we have time under our belts and had the chance to look at the half combinations we will be using for the next few weeks.
“Our resilience was also good considering how much possession they had. We let in a couple of soft tries from kicks and one-on-one misses, but we held up to a lot of what they threw at us and our structures looked firm and solid.
“Eventually, we will find a half back combination which rests comfortably and find some consistency there. We need a backbone of a side that takes us forward. We won’t have Matty for a few weeks so we have to move on now.
“One thing for sure we are united and working together.”