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Yates' verdict: Hard to tell how semi-final loss will affect St Helens

St Helens were knocked-out of the Challenge Cup on Sunday
St Helens were knocked-out of the Challenge Cup on Sunday
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Shell-shocked Saints' Wembley dreams lie in tatters for at least another 12 months after a totally forgettable afternoon for the 12-times Challenge Cup winners - and let's be brutally honest they were completely out-classed and out-smarted by underdogs Catalans Dragons in front of a disbelieving shirt-sleeved crowd at the University of Bolton Stadium yesterday.




How the backlash of this 35-16 semi- final drubbing will affect the morale and confidence of a side, who have already qualified for the Grand Final play-offs ahead of the Super 8s, remains unanswered at this moment in time and it will also be interesting to see the way I which head coach Justin Holbrook attempts to lift the doom and gloom and the manner he approaches these end-of-season fixtures.

Whether he opts to continue his current policy by playing his strongest team whenever fitness allow, or gives a number of his youngsters a chance to show their credentials at the expense of one or two senior pros, only he knows but it may become a little clearer when the Aussie reveals his squad for Friday night's tough-looking home game against Huddersfield Giants - winners of their last four outings.

Saints will certainly need to bounce back in a positive manner if they want to erase the memory of their French flop, especially a nightmare opening 40 minutes when they were hit by a four-try broadside, ripped apart defensively almost at will, and trailed by a 27 point margin which their fans must have found hard to swallow.

It was virtually game set and match for Steve McNamara's boys and I wouldn't argue with the former England supremo's post-match verdict that it represented their best performance this year by a country mile.


At the other end of the scale - and without taken any of the gloss from the Dragons' outstanding performance - this was also one of Saints' poorest 80 minutes of an otherwise almost impeccable 2018 - and ironically it happened on the most important day of the current campaign.

They were below-par almost from the opening salvos and even on a dry day their normally sure handling left a great deal to be desired and the harder they tried to remedy the situation the more errors they seemed to make.

Neither did Holbrook try to make excuses for only the club's third setback of the season and when asked how difficult it would be to pick up his players. He said:'' I'm not sure at this moment in time because I hadn't thought I would have to do so.

''Obviously, I am shattered, disappointed and devastated by the result and no doubt It will hurt me more when I wake up in the morning.

''We are still a good side but poor today and that hurts for sure."

Of Saints' shambolic first-half display, which also resulted in Morgan Knowles being sin-binned a few minutes before the interval, Holbrook
said: '' We got what we deserved.

''The Dragons ran hard, completed their sets and we did the opposite. They dominated us completely in the first half and all credit to them.
I was happy with our fightback as we put a bit of a dint in them but we were too far behind in the end.

“Had we restricted them to an 18, or 19 points half-time lead, we would have had a chance but we needed half- time to come.

“In the end, we couldn’t get there, the sin binning came and I thought we were in big trouble. We leaked two more tries and in the end the deficit was too great.”


Dragons -tries: Tierney (20 mins), Garcia (30 and 39), Gigot (37), Moa (62).
Goals: Drinkwater (8,20,35,37,39, 45 and 62).
Drop: Gigot(33).

Saints - tries: Percival (50 and 68), McCarthy-Scarsbrook (55).
Goals: Richardson (55 and 68).
Penalties; Dragons: 8,Saints 9.

Half-time: 27-0. Full-time 35-16

Referee: Robert Hicks.
Attendance: 26,086

Teams - Dragons: 31. Tony Gigot; 20. Lewis Tierney, 1. David Mead, 4.
Brayden Wiliame, 5. Fouad Yaha; 6. Samisoni Langi, 33. Josh
Drinkwater; 15. Mikael Simon, 19. Michael McIlorum, 10. Sam Moa, 21.
Benjamin Jullien, 12. Benjamin Garcia, 8. Remi Casty.
Subs: 11. Louis Anderson, 14. Julian Bousquet, 17. Jason Baitieri, 34.
Kenny Edwards.

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, 15. Morgan Knowles, 11.
Zeb Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin.
Subs: 6. Theo Fages, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Luke Douglas,
20. Matty Lees.