Simmons turns up the heat

Saints Lee Gaskell is tackled in the game against Salford City Reds at Langtree Park.
Saints Lee Gaskell is tackled in the game against Salford City Reds at Langtree Park.

COACH Royce Simmons will be demanding a higher level of consistency than his players have shown so far this season when Catalans Dragons visit Langtree Park on Friday night.

Despite being unbeaten in their opening three games – two wins and a draw – Saints have not been firing on all cylinders.

But they will have to be at their best against a French outfit Simmons believes will be one of the dark horses in the race for the Stobart Super League title.

“Dragons have recruited well, and are likely to give us our sternest test of the season,” said Simmons.

Coach Trent Robinson has brought in Louis Anderson from Warrington Wolves, Batley Bulldogs’ Ben Fisher and Julian Bousquet of FC Lezignan to add to an impressive looking set of players, which include top-class half-backs Thomas Bosc and Scott Dureau, and the evergreen Steve Menzies.

But his biggest coup was to persuade the much-decorated Leon Pryce to leave St Helens and head for the sunnier climes of the south of France.

Pryce played his first competitive game of the campaign against Castleford Tigers at the Stade Gilbert Brutus on Saturday, and earned the man-of-the-match tag in a 28-20 home victory.

“Leon will want to impress on his return to the club but he won’t be the only one,” said Simmons, who could have half-back Lee Gaskell back after he missed Sunday 36-36 draw at Hull KR with a leg injury.

If so, he faces a battle for midfield superiority against Pryce – a player he admits taught him a great deal during their time together at Saints.

Dragons have won both their opening games – a third had to be postponed against Hull FC due to a frozen pitch – and at this early stage of the season, they are the only club boasting a 100 per cent record.

Saints will want to shatter that unblemished record, but won’t need telling they will have to show a vast improvement in their overall form.

Simmons was far from happy with his side’s performance at Craven Park on Sunday.

He said: “To leak 36 points against a team who lacked first-choice half-backs, Blake Green and Michael Dobson, was disappointing.”

Tickets for Friday’s game, which is being sponsored by the Park Inn, St Helens, are still on sale at Langtree Park.

But there will cash turnstiles on the East and North Stands on the night.

n Hull KR match report – see Pages 84 & 85