🏆 St Helens 😇 had to battle past Castleford 🐯 in a low-scoring game before getting their hands on the League Leaders’ Shield.
🗞️ Report, 📽️ highlights and 🗣️ reaction.
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— Sky Sports RL (@SkySportsRL) August 30, 2019
It has been five years since St Helens reached the summit of rugby league in England, last claiming the Super League crown in the 2014 campaign.
The club have fallen at the semi-final stage for the last four seasons on the bounce, including their failure last term when they were beaten by Warrington Wolves.
Justin Holbrook has endured the same issues as his predecessor Keiron Cunningham had in the playoffs, failing to galvanise his team for the pressure of elimination matches.
However, the Saints are on the charge once more and have been outstanding in the 2019 campaign forging their way back through to the semi-finals.
Holbrook has one final chance to win the Super League to end his three-year tenure with the ultimate prize. The Aussie will be leaving his post at the end of the current term to join the Gold Coast Titans in the NRL.
St Helens have been dominant over the course of the season, winning an incredible 24 out of their 27 matches at the time of writing. Surprisingly, two of their defeats have come at the hands of bottom side London Broncos on the road.
LATEST: Justin Holbrook has accepted the job at the Gold Coast Titans.
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— Michael Chammas (@MichaelChammas) July 29, 2019
They’ve already secured the League Leaders’ Shield, but have to capitalise on their form to win the ultimate title, with the Saints backed in the latest rugby league betting odds as odds-on 8/11 favourites for the crown. Holbrook and his men are in an eerily similar situation to last season when they were a free-scoring dominant outfit in the regular season, winning 26 of their 30 games.
However, Warrington were playoff ready and two tries from Tom Lineham in the second half took the game away from the Saints on home soil. It was a familiar taste of failure for St Helens, losing in the semi-finals for the fourth year in a row – although not quite as traumatising as their stretch of being defeated five-straight times in the Grand Final between 2007 and 2011.
St Helens have been imperious at both ends of the field in their bid to end their title drought. They lead the league in points scored and fewest allowed, producing a staggering +463 point differential, which highlights their potency and stoic nature of their play this term. Four of their players, Tommy Makinson, Reagan Grace, Kevin Naiqama and Jonny Lomax, are all in the top 10 for the most tries scored this season, while Lomax, Lachlan Coote and Theo Fages are among the leaders in assists.
The statistics make pleasant reading for Holbrook and Saints’ supporters, although they mean very little in a one-off match. Defensive resilience is a vital part of any championship winning side and that could be the driving force behind a surge for the crown. Even though St Helens were off the boil in the attacking third, they still allowed Warrington to score 18 points in their defeat last year.
Wigan showed the way in their triumph, conceding only four points in their two playoff matches. The Warriors held Castleford scoreless before allowing a try against the Wolves on their way to the title. St Helens have all the tools required to win the Super League Grand Final, but they need to prove their mettle to get over the line to reap the rewards.