St. Helens They’ll be displaying their World Club Challenge trophies at Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday night, but head coach Paul Wellens knows that if they don’t extend their winning start to the new Betfred, his team’s homecoming can be victorious. Super League season.
Nearly 14,000 home sales are expected for a repeat of last September’s Grand Finale. Leeds RhinosAfter the Saints’ prowess in wrestling with a dramatic gold-point win NRL champion Penrith Panthers Australia two weeks ago.
Missing again due to injury, Captain James Roby will take the trophy on a tour of the stadium at halftime, but Wellens knows that the carnival atmosphere must not be allowed to distract from the task at hand.
“We’re in a somewhat unusual situation where the club has won a major honor in the first game of the season,” said Wellens, who can remember Tommy Makinson for the first time since the winger struggled during the win. Under head trauma.
“The fans can sing, dance, clap and cheer as much as they want – but as a playgroup it is important to us to maintain consistency and perform well every week because that has been at the core of our success in recent years.”
The Saints shrugged off jetlag with a far-from-perfect 24-6 win at Castleford last Sunday, and Wellens admitted it’s too early to tell if the effects of their busy preseason schedule will continue.
The Rhinos face a side struggling to re-enter the game after their dismal opening defeat at Warrington in a close 22-18 loss to Hull FC at Headingley last Friday night.
But while comparisons are inevitably drawn to his side’s desperate start that swayed him on the verge of the relegation zone last season, Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith is adamant that there is no cause for alarm.
Smith’s arrival at Headingley in April ignited a dramatic revival in their fortunes, proving that they had risen to the table and were ultimately unable to rival Friday’s rivals until the season finale at Old Trafford.
“You really want to fire all the cylinders by the end of the year,” Smith insisted. “There are many teams that start out like a house on fire and fall in a heap. We didn’t start out great, it wasn’t bad at all despite two losses.”
Smith, who could bring James Bentley to his first game of the season against his old club but must give up striker Morgan Gannon, believes Friday night’s big event could help his team get back into gear.
“You expect them to be dying to go home and celebrate with their fans,” Smith added. “But there’s never been a better time to take on world champions. It’s a great opportunity for us.”