Champions St Helens start with convincing win over Salford


Kevin Naiqama (centre) scored two of St Helens’ eight tries during a dominant opening night win against Salford
Betfred Super League
St Helens (18) 48
Tries: Taia, Walmsley 2, Fages, Naiqama 2, Welsby 2 Goals: Coote 3, Percival 5
Salford (2) 8
Try: Sio Goals: Lolohea

Defending champions St Helens ran in eight tries as they began their Super League campaign by thumping 2019 Grand Final opponents Salford Red Devils.

Zeb Taia, Alex Walmsley and Theo Fages all crossed as the hosts eased to a formidable 18-2 lead at half-time.

Kevin Naiqama ran in at the corner to extend St Helens’ advantage with Ken Sio scoring Salford’s only try.

Naiqama and Jack Welsby made it a pair of tries each as Walmsley added another of his own late on.

Saints capitalised on Salford’s wastefulness in possession in a dominant first-half display, with Taia, Walmsley and Fages scoring after forcing the visitors into goal-line drop-outs.

The Red Devils, whose head coach Ian Watson signed a new contract earlier this week, started the second half much better and were almost rewarded with a quickfire try.

Sio cheekily crossed the corner as he caught out an unaware Lachlan Coote who was waiting for the ball to go dead, but video referee James Child ruled it out as Sio was narrowly in touch.

Saints never looked in danger of letting the game out of their grasp as Naiqama and Welsby added a pair of tries each either side of Sio eventually touching down for a consolation.

There was much for new Saints coach Kristian Woolf to be happy about as his side continued the dominance they showed under his predecessor Justin Holbrook.

Salford, on the other hand, were second best in all departments and could have conceded over 50 points had it not been for their resolute defensive display in the face of a Saints side who look primed to maintain their winning qualities this season.

One sour note from their victory, however, was the loss of Great Britain full-back Coote to a knee injury.

St Helens head coach Kristian Woolf: “I’m very happy. We worked really hard in pre-season to put ourselves in a good position to start the season.

“Salford were up for the game and they challenged us early on but Luke Thompson and Alex Walmsley are hard to handle over a long period and we wore them down.

“There was a relentless nature about them when we got on top.

“We’ve got plenty of improvement in us. I think at different times, we lost our way a bit, particularly at the back end of the first half and we were a bit indisciplined coming out of our end.”

Salford head coach Ian Watson: “It was way below any standard we want to set as a team, that’s putting it mildly.

“They taught us a lesson on how to play the game. They did the basics really well, they ran hard and tackled hard.

“Thirty-odd points is a bit of a lesson but when the score blows out to 40 or 50, it starts to get embarrassing.”

St Helens: Coote; Welsby, Naiqama, Percival, Grace; Lomax, Fages; Walmsley, Bentley, Thompson, Taia, Peyroux, McCarthy-Scarsbrook.

Interchanges: Lees, Ashworth, Paulo, Smith.

Salford: Evalds; Sio, Welham, Sarginson, Williams; Lolohea, Brown; Mossop, Lussick, Dudson, Greenwood, McCarthy, Burke.

Interchanges: Pauli, Ikahihifo, Yates, Johnson.

Referee: Liam Moore.

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