Yates’ verdict: Grand Final not decided in March!

Ryan Hall pushes through the Saints defence
Ryan Hall pushes through the Saints defence
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Saints lost the Battle of the Roses against Leeds Rhinos at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday - but the war is far from over!

Challenge Cup and Grand Final glory is not decided on a freezing cold evening in March and many twists and turns will be around the corner between now and early October.

Ash Handley is held by Kyle Amor and Jonny Lomax

Ash Handley is held by Kyle Amor and Jonny Lomax

St Helens fans had already been talking far too prematurely about the likelihood of them picking up silverware in 2018 but both they and the team were brought down to earth with a resounding bang following their first Super League defeat of the season against the defending champions.

Head coach Justin Holbrook was bitterly disappointed by the result and more significantly his team’s display - and that was clearly evident when he gave his verdict at the post-match press conference.

But when I reminded him that titles aren’t settled during the first few weeks of a season he bucked up and retorted: “That’s right and thanks for picking me up a bit.”

At the same time no one can begrudge the Loiners their 28-20 triumph - even though one of their crucial second-half tries ricocheted off the leg of Adam Swift and bounced kindly for scorer Ash Hanley.

Ash Handley scoring the Rhinos fourth  try

Ash Handley scoring the Rhinos fourth try

Holbrook said: “When you play Leeds, it isn’t about individual battles but as a team it would be a fair assumption to say they worked harder than we did, were hungrier and beat us to the punch - all of which I find disappointing.”

He added: “Too many of our guys didn’t play well enough and are understandably disappointed – and they should be. Some individuals didn’t perform the way they should and when you do that you get what you deserve.

“James Roby and Ben Barba were fantastic but too many others weren’t and that is why we didn’t win.. Some guys were doing things they don’t normal do.

“They kept trying to do something different and do other people’s jobs and it got us into trouble.”

But Holbrook insisted: “We’ll bounce back and will be working hard to put things right.”

That will start next Friday when Saints travel to face Hull KR, who were surprise 38-6 away winners at Huddersfield on Thursday, and won’t need reminding that their Super League record at Craven Park since 2007 isn’t exactly impressive - seven defeats, three wins and a draw.

Saints tries: Barba (2), Swift. Goals: Richardson (4/5).

Rhinos tries: Mullally, Myler, Handley (2), Parcell. Goals: Watkins (3/4), Myler (1/2)

Half-time 12-12. Full-time 20-28. Referee: James Child. Attendance 11,482.

Teams - Saints: 23. Ben Barba; 5. Adam Swift, 2. Tommy Makinson, 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, 20. Matty Lees.

Leeds: 1. Ashton Golding; 2. Tom Briscoe, 3. Kallum Watkins, 22. Ash Handley, 5. Ryan Hall; 6. Joel Moon, 7. Richie Myler; 16. Anthony Mullally, 9. Matt Parcell, 10. Brad Singleton, 11. Jamie Jones-Buchanan, 12. Carl Ablett, 15. Brett Delaney. Subs: 24. Jack Walker, 27. Cameron Smith, 28. Mikolaj Oledzki, 30. Josh Walters.