Yates’ verdict: Tough task ahead for Cunningham

Saints head coach Keiron Cunningham
Saints head coach Keiron Cunningham

Head coach Keiron Cunningham will have gone home on Friday night hurting just as much as any genuine Saints’ fan following a shock 16-12 home defeat at the hands of Wakefield Trinity.

The only difference is that Cunningham faces the huge responsibility of putting a smile back on their faces - and on the evidence of a second setback in three matches it is not going to be an easy fix.

A trip to Hull FC on Friday and subsequent fixtures against Catalans Dragons in Perpignan and Warrington Wolves at the Totally Wicked Stadium don’t come any tougher and Saints, currently occupying ninth spot in the Betfred Super League table, are in danger of plunging deeper into the mire by the time they prepare for the final match of March at Salford Red Devils.

However, It is far too early in the season to suggest alarm bells are already ringing and a great deal of water will flow under the bridge between now and the October Grand Final.

At the same time the Saints’ legend is man enough to admit the last two performance have not been of a level acceptable by a club of St Helens stature.

Injuries may have played their part and on Friday night - just three matches into the new campaign - they were without long-term absentee Matty Smith, Aussie Luke Douglas and Jonny Lomax, who are all first choice players in their positions, as well as losing Joe Greenwood to the lure of the NRL.

But the Saints’ legend is not the kind of person to make excuses and it’s simply a case of getting on with the job using the players available.

It could also be argued that when you are struggling for any semblance of form Lady Luck doesn’t smile on you - and there was a great deal of controversy surrounding Trinity’s match-winning try minutes from the end when the video referee adjudged Jacob Miller was held back in tracking a Sam Williams kick and awarded a penalty try.

Match referee James Child had sent it upstairs - and indicated no try - but was overruled. Whether the decision was right or wrong is open to discussion but what surprised me more than anything else was the speed it was made, flashing up on the big screen in a matter of a few seconds without seemingly any second thoughts.

Having said that, no one could begrudge the West Yorkshire club their first win over St Helens in the last 10 meetings and demonstrates how teams like Wakefield - once dubbed as also-rans - are now capable by wise recruitment of competing with any of their rivals.

The only real plus points as far as Saints were concerned was the debut of newly-arrived overseas player Zeb Taia.

The powerhouse forward was tossed into the fray five minutes after the break half and despite having only been in the country since Tuesday adapted well to a new environment and showed early signs that he will be a formidable force in a Saints’ shirt.