We look at what is being said and team news ahead of Saturday’s top-of-the-table Betfred Super League showdown between St Helens and Catalans Dragons…
Woolf targets top spot for Saints
Since the League Leaders’ Shield was first awarded in 2003 to the side finishing top of Super League at the end of the regular season, no side has claimed the prize more than St Helens.
The back-to-back Grand Final winners are currently second in the table on win percentage behind Catalans, the only team to beat them so far this season, and Saturday’s match against the French side at Totally Wicked Stadium is the first of two remaining meetings between them.
Live Betfred Super League
August 7, 2021, 2:00pm
St Helens head coach Kristian Woolf is determined the Challenge Cup winners claim top spot heading into the play-offs after finishing runners-up to rivals Wigan Warriors in the standings during last year’s pandemic-affected campaign and believes that would set them up well for the post-season.
“You always want to aim for first,” Woolf, whose side go into this match on the back of a 42-10 win over Hull FC, said. “The League Leaders is a great reward for the team that’s been the most consistent through the season and that’s something you can hang your hat on.
“They’re obviously travelling really well so it makes for a really good contest for us. They’re where we want to be.
“We’re lucky from the point of view we’ve got two Catalans games, we’ve got Wigan, we’ve got Warrington, we’ve got Leeds – all those teams that are right in the mix for the top six.
“When you do come into finals, you want to do so on the back of playing some really good games. You learn to be better at those big games and you learn to play at a really high intensity week to week.”
Will it be lucky 13 for Catalans?
The Dragons arrive at Totally Wicked Stadium on the back of a club-record run of 12 straight wins and being the first team to beat St Helens in Super League this year with a 20-16 victory in Perpignan back in May.
Their most recent win saw them triumph 23-16 away to Hull Kingston Rovers on Monday evening, with head coach Steve McNamara hailing it as good a win as any the team have secured in 2021.
Nevertheless, the French outfit are constantly striving for improvement and half-back Josh Drinkwater believes there is still plenty more to come from the side as they aim for a maiden Super League Grand Final appearance.
“It’s probably been a while since we put an 80-minute performance in, but we’re coming back and we’re showing that we can come from behind and win games, which is good,” Drinkwater told Sky Sports. “But coming into big games like this weekend we probably can’t afford to do that.
“We’d like to be putting in 80-minute performances, but I suppose the main thing is that we’re winning and we’re sitting in a pretty position.
“We’ve still got a lot to work on, but to win 12 in a row and sit top of the competition at this time of the year is good.”
Catalans’ recent good form saw McNamara voted as Super League’s coach of the month for July, the second time he has claimed the accolade this year, and the coach is full of praise for how his side have performed during that time.
“All the staff and players deserve huge credit for their performances in July,” McNamara said. “We have prepared thoroughly and despite some tough moments in games that preparation put us in a position where we could overcome them.”
St Helens have winger Regan Grace and prop Agnatius Paasi back after both sat out the win away to Hull FC. Centre Josh Simm is also in contention, but prop Matty Lees misses out due to concussion protocols.
Catalans boss McNamara rests scrum-half Josh Drinkwater and prop Sam Kasiano, while Tom Davies, Julian Bousquet, Matt Whitley, Benjamin Garcia and Jason Baitieri are still on the injury list. Matthieu Laguerre, Mathieu Cozza and Jordan Dezaria help plug the gaps.
St Helens: Lachlan Coote, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Joel Thompson, Morgan Knowles, Sione Mata’utia, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Kyle Amor, Agnatius Paasi, Jack Welsby, Aaron Smith, Joe Batchelor, Lewis Dodd, Josh Simm, Dan Norman, Sam Royle.
Catalans Dragons: Arthur Mourgue, Samisoni Langi, Dean Whare, Fouad Yaha, James Maloney, Gil Dudson, Micky McIlorum, Mike McMeeken, Alrix Da Costa, Benjamin Jullien, Paul Seguier, Mickael Goudemand, Matthieu Laguerre, Corentin Le Cam, Joel Tomkins, Mathieu Cozza, Joe Chan, Sam Tomkins, Jordan Dezaria, Cesar Rouge, Romain Franco.
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