Justin Holbrook turns attention to Old Trafford after St Helens clinch shield
Saints lifted the League Leaders’ Shield after beating injury-hit Hull.
St Helens coach Justin Holbrook hailed his side’s efforts in winning the League Leaders’ Shield but admitted the real test is yet to come.
England centre Mark Percival and exciting winger Regan Grace scored two tries apiece as Saints overcame injury-hit Hull 38-12 at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
Holbrook’s men have led the table all season but missed a chance to secure the shield a fortnight ago when Wigan condemned them to a second successive home defeat, which came on the heels of their shock Challenge Cup exit.
However, they made no mistake on Friday as they cruised to a fourth win of the season over the Black and Whites and can now look forward to a likely home semi-final against Warrington.
“It was a good performance from us tonight,” Holbrook said. “It’s a good achievement to be rewarded as the most consistent team over the 30 rounds and I’m proud of the boys.
“As we all know, it’s Old Trafford that counts but I don’t want to downplay this. The whole season is built on the end of the year but it’s a nice thing to collect on the way through and great recognition for the club.”
Holbrook handed debuts to former Bradford forward James Bentley and 17-year-old Jack Welsby in the absence of a host of regulars through injury and illness.
“Everybody who was eligible got to play tonight,” Holbrook said. “It was great for the young boys to get a taste and play well.
“I thought James Bentley was fantastic. He’s tried hard all year for Sheffield and really stood up and handled it well, playing 80 minutes in the back row. He did a good job and I’m happy for him.”
Hull forwards Jordan Lane and Brad Fash scored their first Super League tries but they were little consolation for coach Lee Radford as he saw his side suffer a ninth successive defeat.
“The rot has set in and we’ll need pre-season to remind some of these blokes of the players they can be,” Radford said.
“I was disappointed with some of the attempted efforts for the tries conceded. Two in the first half were not acceptable.”
Zimbabwe-born forward Masi Matongo, who is in the England Knights squad for the end-of-season tour to Papua New Guinea, was the only player to earn the praise of his coach.
“I thought Masi Matongo was the second best player on the field behind (Luke) Thompson,” Radford said. “I thought his efforts were phenomenal.
“We’ve just got to get some of that want and desire and response to adversity to rub off on to other blokes. He was pretty inspirational for us tonight.”
Hull lost back rower Sika Manu with a knee injury while England utility back Jake Connor defied a dislocated finger early in the game to return to the action and produce a display Radford described as “rocks and diamonds”.
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