Any thoughts Saints would not have quality players waiting in the wings as they faced their first ‘mini’ injury crisis of the season were quickly dispelled on Friday night.
Despite going into the home fixture against struggling neighbours Widnes Vikings without the mercurial Ben Barba - Super League’s top try scoring full back - on-song winger Tommy Makinson and first choice centre Ryan Morgan, the table-toppers showed that they possessed the strength in depth to cope with what will be a challenging period ahead and no one demonstrated that point better than flying wingman Adam Swift.
Swift, who in the past few weeks has been playing on dual registration at Sheffield Eagles, returned to his more familiar stomping ground and grabbed a stunning hat-trick in Saints comfortable 36-6 victory and at the same time gave a timely reminder to head coach Justin Holbrook that he is back knocking on the first team door and cannot be ignored.
Holbrook said: “We were forced into a bit of a reshuffle due to injury but I thought the boys did a fantastic job, particularly Swifty, who was fantastic. He was our best player tonight and it was great to give him a game.
“He had couple of runs at Sheffield before we had a week off. I told him he could have time off. too, but he wanted to play another game.
“When blokes make those decisions it is rewarding as a coach to put them in the first team and watch them play so well.”
The head coach added: “I was pleased by the performance of the team as a whole. I know Widnes have been struggling but they have been competitive as demonstrated at Hull FC last week. We could have been excused tonight for not being as dominant as we were but we didn’t want to go down that path.
“Our defence was fantastic, we scored some good tries and came close at other times as well. It’s all credit to the players, they had a choice tonight and they decided to rip in and we got the result we deserved.”
Swift’s electrifying display, however, wasn’t good enough to earn him the official player of the match award which went to irrepressible skipper James Roby. Jonny Lomax, switched to full back in Barba’s absence, was also a shining light and his reverse second-half pass to send Theo Fages scampering over the whitewash was worth the admission price alone.
Matty Costello, playing only his second senior game and a few days after celebrating his 20th birthday, also slotted into the centre role comfortably, replacing the injured Ryan Morgan, and provided another plus point for Holbrook - giving the St Helens’ boss the kind of selection headache which he will relish.
Saints - tries: Taia (6 mins), Percival (11), Swift (21, 59 and 77), McCarthy-Scarsbrook (38), Fages (50).
Goals: Richardson (7, 39, 51 and 78).
Vikings - tries: Craven (43).
Goals: Inu (44)
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas
Saints: 1. Jonny Lomax: 5. Adam Swift, 30. Matty Costello, 4. Mark Percival, 19. Regan Grace; 6. Theo Fages, 18. Danny Richardson; 10. Kyle Amor, 9. James Roby, 16. Luke Thompson, 17. Dom Peyroux, 11. Zeb Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin.
Subs: 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Luke Douglas, 15. Morgan Knowles, 20. Matty Lees.
Vikings: 1. Rhys Hanbury; 2. Stefan Marsh, 4. Charly Runciman, 3. Krisnan Inu, 40. Owen Buckley; 6. Joe Mellor, 15. Danny Craven; 25. Jay Chapelhow, 33. Aaron Heremaia, 8. Gil Dudson, 17. Sam Wilde, 39. Weller Hauraki, 10. Alex Gerrard. Subs: 12. Matt Whitley, 16. Tom Olbison, 20. Macgraff Leuluai, 23. Danny Walker.