Yates’ verdict: Barba the X-factor for Saints

Castleford 'Tigers players dejected as Saints Danny Richardson slots over another conversion
Castleford 'Tigers players dejected as Saints Danny Richardson slots over another conversion
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Saints’ fans may say with some justification that full back Ben Barba is the X-factor in a team which is riding on the crest of a wave at this moment in time.

But the Australian, who claimed his second hat-trick of the season in Saturday’s 36-18 victory over Castleford Tigers in the sixth round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup to take his tally in all competitions to

18, deflected all the credit on to the shoulders of his team-mates.

As he reflected on his first taste of Rugby League’s most glamorous and prestigious tournament, the 28-year-old former Cronulla Sharks NRL Grand Final winner said: “I say this every week but I’m just happy to play along side such a great pack of players in a team which works extremely hard.

“I’m lucky to be part of this set up and able to do the flashy stuff at the back.”

It is 10 years since Saints last lifted the coveted trophy at Wembley but Barba is looking no further than the next hurdle.

The Aussie added: “It’s a question of taking one step at a time. We’ve climbed the first one but the competition will get harder as we progress.”

Scrum half Danny Richardson - making his cup debut and dedicating the result to his nan who had recently undergone a majors operation - said: “Playing with Ben makes my job a little bit easier.”I’m enjoying every game and the responsibility it brings, said the 21-year-old who scored one of Saints six tries and landed six conversions from seven attempts.

“I’m just giving the boys early ball and they are doing the rest,” he added.

Jon Wilkin, who will be seeking his fifth Challenge Cup medal, said: “Ben is world class and a game-breaker for us. We are thankful to have him in our squad and he seems to come up with the goods when they are needed.”

Head coach Justin Holbrook said: “The cup is high on our priority list but that is no different from every other team still in it.

“We have a few more games to play in this competition if we are to reach Wembley but I was definitely happy to clear the Castleford hurdle.”

Holbrook added: “Ben was very good. He has been playing fantastic and he did it again. It was great to watch.

“Great players lift those around them and he is having a great influence on our team. He is a very intelligent guy with his rugby league and is great to work with. I can’t rap him enough.”

Match Summary:

Tigers:

Tries: Trueman, Minkin, McMeeken.

Goals: Ellis (3 /3).

Saints:

Tries: Grace, Barba (3), Morgan, Richardson,

Goals: Richardson (6 /7).

Half-time: 0-12.

Full-time: 18-36.

Referee: James Child.

Attendance 5,342.

Teams - Tigers: 4. Michael Shenton; 2. Greg Minikin, 3. Jake Webster,

16. Joe Wardle, 24. Jy Hitchcox; 6. Jamie Ellis, 9. Paul McShane; 32.

Liam Watts, 13. Adam Milner, 15. Jesse Sene-Lefao, 11. Oliver Holmes,

12. Mike McMeeken, 17. Alex Foster. Subs: 8. Junior Moors, 10. Grant

Millington, 18. Matt Cook, 21. Jake Trueman.

Saints: 23. Ben Barba; 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark

Percival, 19. Regan Grace; 1. Jonny Lomax, 18. Danny Richardson; 10.

Kyle Amor, 9. James Roby, 16. Luke Thompson, 17. Dom Peyroux, 11. Zeb

Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin. Subs: 6. Theo Fages, 13. Louie

McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Luke Douglas, 15. Morgan Knowles.