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Will 2018 Be St Helens' Year To Get Back To The Super League Summit?

Will 2018 Be St Helens' Year To Get Back To The Super League Summit?

Monday 29 Jan 2018 8:34pm

It has been a case of ‘close but no cigar’ for St Helens in recent years. The north west outfit have reached the playoffs in each of the last three seasons since winning the Grand Final in 2014 but they have not advanced past the semi-final stage. That simply has to change this time around – St Helens should be competing for silverware on a yearly basis and Justin Holbrook can take his side back to the top in his first full season in charge.

Saints were struggling prior to Holbrook’s appointment but bounced back with the former Sydney City Roosters assistant coach at the helm. St Helens went on to win 11 of their 19 remaining Super League fixtures and came within a whisker of beating Castleford Tigers in the playoffs, missing out on a Grand Final berth to Luke Gale’s dramatic golden-point drop goal. But that was then and this is now; St Helens should come on stronger for that defeat.

Unusually, it was St Helens’ defensive qualities that kept them in contention throughout the 2017 campaign. In years gone by, Saints have been renowned for their attacking prowess but Holbrook has moulded this squad into an elite, organised Super League team. At the end of the regular season, St Helens had conceded 420 points – only Castleford had a better record. By the end of the Super 8s, Saints had allowed 518 points to Castleford’s tally of 536 points.

In seven fixtures against Super League’s top seven clubs, St Helens had conceded just 98 points; which averages out at 14 points per game. If they can defend like that against the top teams in 2018, Saints will almost certainly be there or thereabouts in the Grand Final battle. Punters who fancy Holbrook’s men to continue their ascent can find the latest odds, news, and promotions with Champion Bets before the season gets underway.

More often than not, most Super League clubs will attempt to bring a few players in during the offseason – that was not been the case with St Helens this year. Holbrook appears to be satisfied with his current crop of players; talented youngster James Bentley signed a three-year deal from the Bradford Bulls but that is it. The key for Saints will be keeping their influential men fully fit; if they can avoid any long-term layoffs, Holbrook’s men will be in with a chance.

Holbrook knows that getting off to a fast start and building early momentum could be huge in the Super League playoff race. St Helens cannot afford to fall behind in the race to qualify for the Super 8s or else risk missing out on a top-four berth. An opening weekend clash with Castleford could be tough but games against Catalans Dragons, Huddersfield Giants, and a home clash with Salford Red Devils are certainly winnable.

Should Saints win three of their opening four games, most fans will feel that they are in a decent position to push on and enjoy a successful campaign. On home soil, they could even end up beating Castleford, and St Helens supporters will be expecting big things from their side if they manage to go undefeated in the first four weeks. Saints aren’t the dominant force that they once were but, with Justin Holbrook steering the ship, they will be aiming to get back to the Super League summit sooner rather than later.

Photo Credit: Official St.Helens RLFC via Facebook