Yates’ verdict: As good as it gets

Kyle Amor proves too strong for the Castleford defence
Kyle Amor proves too strong for the Castleford defence

Our rugby writer John Yates gives his verdict on Saints 41-0 demolition of Castleford.

It was as close to a perfect professional performance as you are likely to see - but head coach Nathan Brown will be demanding more of the same if the club’s Old Trafford dream is to come true.

Saints had already nilled two clubs in the regular Super League season but runaway victories over strugglers Salford Red Devils and Bradford Bulls paled into insignificance alongside a seven-try whitewash of the Tigers - a club which came within a whisker of denying them the League Leaders’ Shield.

Awe-inspiring would be the best way to describe an 80 minute display in which the table-toppers hardly put a foot wrong with all 17 players making invaluable and positive contributions.

None more so than Mr Perpetual Motion James Roby who bossed the game from virtually start to finish, as well as helping himself to two crucial first-half tries which enabled Saints to take a vice-like grip on proceedings.

Eye-brows were raised when Brown switched Jordan Turner from centre to loose forward in mid-August but he has taken to his new role like a duck to water and enhanced his ever-improving performances by scoring a stunning second-half try on Friday and setting up good field positions with astute and houghtful kicking.

The same could be said about the Aussie’s surprise decision to move second rower Mark Flanagan to scrum half but he, too, dovetailed perfectly into one of the key creative slots alongside Lance Hohaia.

It was a calculated gamble but paid handsome dividends as Saints added to the Tigers’ woeful record on visits to St Helens where they haven’t won since a 1992 truimph in the third round of the Regal Trophy.

There was little hint of what later developed into a one-sided romp during the early exchanges as both sides battled for supremacy but once Saints edged in front after 19 minutes there was no holding them back.

Roby delivered the first telling blow by wriggling his way over from acting half back and six minutes later doubled his tally in similar style - Mark Percival adding the extras on both occasions Saints thought they had gone further ahead when Tommy Makinson darted over in the right-hand corner but referee James Child dubiously ruled the try out for a forward pass.

It didn’t, however, frustrate the hosts who guaranteed a little extra breathing space on the stroke of half-time when Turner landed a drop goal to increase their lead to 13-0.

Any lingering hopes of a Cas revival virtully evaporated within five minutes of the restart when Roby and Sia Soliola combined to create

space for Turner to embark on a 50 yard dash to the line, leaving Percival a simple third conversion.

Roby had also to show his defensive qualities minutes later when, in an isolated Tigers’ attack, the hooker forced Michael Channing to spill possession on the point of touching down.

But by now Daryl Powell’s boys were looking decidely bedraggled and this was clearly evident in the manner they conceded their fourth try after 57 minutes, allowing winger Adam Swift to scoop up a loose pass deep inside own half and scorch 70 metres to the whitewash.

Hot-shot Percival slotted over his fourth goal and as Saints dominance increased skipper Paul Wellens was denied a penalty try after being pulled back by centre Michael Shenton whose night of woe was completed when he was sent to the sin-bin.

It took Saints less than 90 seconds to cash-in further on their one-man advantage - Makinson latching on to Percival’s pass to cross down the right before powerhouse forwards Kyle Amor (69 mins) and Mose Masoe (74 mins) both smashed their way over the line and Percival taking his goal tally to six from seven attempts.