Is this Saints team better than the last?

Paul Sculthorpe Saints

What a start for the mighty Saints as they bid to make Betfred Super League history.

I don’t think anyone predicted we’d win so comfortably against last year’s League Leaders’ Shield winners Catalans Dragons, who are a lot of people’s tip for silverware this season, on the opening night of the 27th Super League season.

Albeit we’ve only just had round one of the new campaign, but you have to ask the question: Is this 2022 team stronger than the previous three-peat champions? Given the 28-8 destruction of a team we just pipped 12-10 in the Grand Final four months ago, it’s a very strong possibility.

Super League title sponsors Betfred make Saints heavy favourites at 2/1 to win an historic fourth Grand Final on the bounce, ahead of Warrington – who were very fortunate to pick up both points against Leeds (8/1) – at 7/2, Catalans 5/1 and Wigan 11/2.

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I thought it was a very controlled, disciplined and clinical performance last week. The French side obviously thought they could bully the champions into submission, but with players like Morgan Knowles and Joe Batchelor that isn’t going to work!

The Dragons were met face on and were soon down to 12 players as Gill Dudson picked up a yellow card in the very first minute. This didn’t stop the visitors crossing for the opening try via Fouad Yaha, but other than a Sam Tomkins conversion and a penalty kick just before the break they wouldn’t score again.

Saints showed a great calmness and courage to post 28 points via two Tommy Makinson tries, a great piece of individual skill from Lewis Dodd and standard support play from skipper James Roby – while new boys Joey Lussick and new crowd-favourite Konrad Hurrell capped memorable debuts with a try apiece.

Why were Saints so dominant? Well, I think the first thing is obvious – the fitness levels and physiques of the Saints players. With that, they have the ability to keep high levels of intensity for majority of the game, something the Dragons simply couldn’t do. This wasn’t helped with the 70th minute sending off of Dylan Napa for a head shot on Mark Percival. It will be interesting watching this year with Napa – I’ve seen a lot of Aussie ‘tough guys’ come unstuck in Super League over the years!

Kristian Woolf’s men were clinical with the ball, creating great opportunities via some strong carries and subtle skills.

Next up for the Saints is a trip to Hull FC, free-to-air on Channel 4, at 12.30pm on Saturday.

How good was it to see live rugby league available to all audiences? I thought Channel 4 did a fantastic job of showcasing our great game, and the numbers back it up!

We know, and have said for years, that our game needs new fans and more commercial revenue, and this new free-to-air promotion can only help. Long may it continue.

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