Saints boss wants players ‘to raise standard’ for Dragons test

Saints were defeated by the Dragons in the Challenge Cup semi-final last month
Saints were defeated by the Dragons in the Challenge Cup semi-final last month
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Saints are still red-hot favourites to lift the League Leaders’ Shield but in recent weeks a dip in form has resulted in a one-time 10 point lead over arch-rivals Wigan Warriors being reduced to six with four matches remaining in the Super 8s.

It’s not time to press the panic button but fans are desperately keen to see them cross the line as soon as possible and claim their first piece of silverware since the 2014 season.

When the Dragons get things right, they are a dangerous side as they demonstrated when beating us and then Warrington to win the Challenge Cup

Justin Holbrook

Head coach Justin Holbrook said: “Some people are telling us to hurry up and wrap up the shield but you just can’t do that and it will be a case of taking one game at a time, like it has been all year.

“Wigan, Castleford and Warrington Wolves and ourselves are focusing on a top four finish and none of us will be looking any further than the next game.”

That comes on Saturday, as far as St Helens are concerned, when the table-toppers travel to the south of France to face Ladbrokes Challenge Cup winners Catalans Dragons.

It will be the French club’s first home game since lifting the iconic trophy at Wembley in late August - and having hammered Saints 35-16 in the semi-final of the competition - Steve McNamara’s boys will be looking for a repeat performance.

At the same time Holbrook and his players will be wanting to erase the bitter memory of their below-par display at Bolton and will be hoping to replicate the victory they achieved when last visiting the Gilbert Brutus Stade in early February.

It won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination and Holbrook admits they will need to up the ante if they are to jet home with two points in the bag.

He said: “When the Dragons get things right, they are a dangerous side as they demonstrated when beating us and then Warrington to win the Challenge Cup Final a few weeks ago.

“We will need to raise our own standard, play better than we have been doing and combat the threat they will pose.”

Neither is Holbrook worried about the impact of travelling to France on the day and returning immediately following the game.

“We did it earlier in the season and hopefully we will achieve a similar result this time round.”

The match will be screened live by Sky Sports Arena with a 5.30pm kick-off

THE home game against Hull FC next Friday, September 14, will be preceded by a period of reflection, where names of Saints’ players and fans who have passed away in the last 12 months will be read aloud before kick-off.

Those names will also be listed on a special tribute in the match day programme.

If you have a late family member, or friend, who has been a follower of St Helens RFC, then the club would love to include them in this tribute.

Simply email their name to Saints’ chaplain, Paul Johnson at: keepmeupdated@saintsrlfc.com before next Monday, September 10, and they will be included.