St Helens prop Alex Walmsley says his team are on a roll as they prepare for their final push for a trip to Old Trafford.
The 2014 Super League champions were six points adrift of a top-four place in June and fans were calling for the head of coach Keiron Cunningham.
But Cunningham turned around his team’s fortunes with the aid of a five-match winning run before the end of the regular season and, with Catalans Dragons losing their last five, it was been enough to lift them into fourth spot.
Walmsley says the players never lost faith in their coach as they get ready to launch their Super 8s campaign at Warrington on tonight.
“He is St Helens through and through,” Walmsley said. “He bleeds for the club, he’s a great coach and a great person.
“Despite the results, I think we were always bubbling below the surface.
“We were inconsistent for a lot of the season but to finish the season with five good performances on the bounce and sneak into the top four will really put us in good stead.”
St Helens rounded off the regular 23-match campaign a fortnight ago on a high with a 23-4 win at Wigan and will go to the Halliwell Jones Stadium buoyed by an impressive away record against the Wolves, with 22 wins and a draw from 26 matches in the Super League era, including a 25-22 victory at their rivals’ home in April.
“We come off one derby and go straight into another,” Walmsley said. “It’s going to be a high intense seven weeks.
“We have got a good record there but I don’t want to jinx us by saying we’ll keep that going. They’ve been fantastic all year and they’ve got some good players with the likes of Kurt Gidley and Chris Sandow and Chris Hill.
“They’re a dangerous side with strike all over the park.”
Warrington also finished the regular season in good form, with four wins and draw from their last five games to climb to second place, and remained on course for the treble with a 56-12 win over Wakefield in the Challenge Cup semi-finals at the weekend.
The Wolves will now try to push their Wembley clash with Hull on August 27 to the back of their minds as they return to league action but coach Tony Smith says the fixture planners have done them no favours by inflicting on them a five-day turn-around.
“We’re happy to still be alive in all three trophies,” Smith said. “It’s a case of concentrating on the one in hand and seeing where it takes you.
“But we have to play St Helens five days after the semi-final whereas Saints have had a week off so cheers for that.
“It is not a great reward for coming second and getting to the semi-final. It is an incredibly quick turn around.
“But it is what it is and we have just got to roll our sleeves up and get on with it.
“We had three originally and everyone else in the top five had none until we got it changed.”