St Helens v Huddersfield: Brown back on old stomping ground

Kyle Amor in action during Saints' defeat to Warrington
Kyle Amor in action during Saints' defeat to Warrington

Nathan Brown will be back on familiar territory as he aims to secure his first silverware as a Super League coach.

The Australian takes his St Helens team to his old club Huddersfield on Friday night looking to make the most of a second chance to lift the League Leaders’ Shield.

Warrington spoiled their party a week ago by beating them 39-12 at Langtree Park and now the Giants, who reached their first Wembley final for 47 years during Brown’s successful three-year stint at the Yorkshire club, stand in their way of a first trophy for six years.

“It’s good because it’s where it all started for me in the English game,” Brown said. “I enjoyed it while I was there and I’ve enjoyed going back there. It’s a good stadium and a big, open field which generally provides for good football.”

If injury-hit Saints slip up once more, Castleford could pip them to top spot with a win over Catalan Dragons in Perpignan on Saturday but Brown is expecting his side to bounce back from their disappointing performance against the Wolves.

“We’ve got so much to play for still,” he said. “The guys have trained brilliantly well this week. We’ve had some great sessions of good intensity and commitment.

“I think we’ll be fine. At the end of the day, there’s no more pressure on us than there is on Huddersfield. The pressure is on both sides for different reasons. Huddersfield will want to make the top four and we want the League Leaders Shield.

“I’d have thought they’ll be very committed and I’d be very disappointed if we’re not very committed.

“The League Leaders’ Shield would be good reward for the guys for hanging in there through some tough times.”

Huddersfield, unbeaten in their six matches, are the current holders of the League Leaders’ Shield and victory on Friday would clinch a fourth top-four finish in the last six years.

Giants coach Paul Anderson, Brown’s former right-hand man, said: “It’s a massive game for us. We know if we win we are in the top four and that is our focus. It is purely on what we need to do and that’s beating St Helens on Friday evening.

“We are a bit busted from the game against Hull FC with the short turn-around and we have a couple of injuries so there will be some significant people missing. However I have confidence in the entire squad and we know when we are on our game we can beat anyone.”

Anderson is without prop Eorl Crabtree for the first time this year and skipper Danny Brough misses only his second match, while Brown has centre Mark Percival back from concussion as he re-shuffles his back division following the loss of full-back Shannon McDonnell with a broken jaw.

Veteran half-back Richard Horne has recovered from illness in time to make his farewell appearance for Hull in their last match of the season against Leeds at the KC Stadium.

The 32-year-old Horne, who made his Super League debut against Leeds at the age of 16, will bring down the curtain on his playing career after 16 seasons and 386 appearances at the end of the match and join the backroom staff of his home-town club.

The match will also mark the final appearance of New Zealander Aaron Heremaia, who is moving to Widnes next season.

Leeds, who are guaranteed to start their play-off campaign from sixth place, are hoping to welcome back Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow for their first appearances since the Challenge Cup final.

In Friday’s other game, Widnes will be aiming to make it four wins out of four when they meet Salford at the AJ Bell Stadium.

The Vikings, who have already beaten the Red Devils twice in Super League this year and knocked them out of the Challenge Cup, can climb a place to seventh above Catalan Dragons ahead of the French club’s home game against Castleford on Saturday.

Matty Ashurst and Logan Tomkins will make their farewell appearances for Salford before moving on to Wakefield and Wigan respectively.