Saints captain Paul Wellens blasted the attitude of his team-mates after they went down 41-24 to Warrington in the final match of Super League’s Magic Weekend spectacular at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium.
Wellens, a keen Manchester City fan, helped spark a fightback as a second-half substitute after Saints trailed 36-6 but he was scathing over their performance as they missed the chance to return to the top of the table.
“That was embarassing,” Wellens told Sky Sports. “We’ve got to turn up with the right attitude. That’s just not good enough.”
St Helens coach Nathan Brown echoed the disappointment of his long-serving skipper, suggesting his players lack the mental toughness when it comes to taking on the big guns.
“I told the players at half-time what I honestly think we need to do to beat Wigan or Warrington or Leeds but it’s not for me to say publicly,” said Brown, who is halfway through his three-year contract.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Wigan have been dominating St Helens for the past four years. I know why it is but I’m not going to say why.
“They’re a terrific bunch of guys who turn up for training prepared to work hard every week and they do that. We’ve got some talented players in amongst the group and some good hard workers but there’s an area that we need to improve in.
“The people that have won the trophies that are left at the club would agree with that.”
Scrum-half Luke Walsh, in harness with Wellens, engineered a comeback that produced tries for Jordan Turner, Lance Hohaia and Matty Dawson but that failed to improve the mood of their coach.
“It wouldn’t have mattered if we had come back and won the game because it wouldn’t have addressed the issue that we need to address as a group,” Brown added
Threequarters Joel Monaghan and Rhys Evans both scored two tries to help Warrington to a sixth win in eight Magic Weekend fixtures and this was probably the most satisifying after suffering a 38-8 home defeat by Saints in their opening game of the season back in February.
They were boosted by the return of England forward Ben Westwood from a six-match injury and they could hardly have made a better start, with four tries in the first 24 minutes.
Wolves fans will be hoping the result is a catalyist for a second-half tilt at a third successive Grand Final appearance but coach Tony Smith is not getting carried away.
“It was a good performance but I don’t think there are defining moments,” he said. “We’ll have some good days and some bad days.
“We probably out-enthused our opponents in the first half, which is what they did to us when we last played them.
“We’ve been solid in the last few weeks and been building in patches but there are some aspects we need to brush up for next week.
“We need to do some work on our right-side defence, it got exposed in the second half.
“Some things went our way but we knew that Saints would come back at some stage. I thought our scrambling defence was enormous. We covered for each other on numerous occasions and that’s a big thing in rugby league.
“Having Westwood back was fantastic, he looked like he hadn’t missed a beat.”