31 Jan 2020

St Helens off to perfect start with win over Salford

St Helens got the defence of their Betfred Super League crown off to the perfect start with a dominant 48-8 win over Salford Red Devils at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

In a rematch of the 2019 Grand Final, Saints were hardly troubled as they extended their long unbeaten home record against the Red Devils.

The defending champions ran in eight tries, including two each for Alex Walmsley, Kevin Naiqama and Jack Welsby, while Zeb Taia and Theo Fages also crossed for the home side.

Lachlan Coote and Mark Percival added six and 10 points respectively and were both perfect off the tee against a Salford team that only had a Ken Sio try and four points from the boot of Tui Lolohea to show for their efforts.

The Red Devils did actually start the better, Lolohea converting a simple penalty to give the visitors an early advantage.

But that was all they had to cheer about in a first half Kristian Woolf's side dominated. 

Taia got Saints' first try after a neat pass from Lomax before Walmsley powered over six minutes later, Coote converted both as the hosts took a 12-2 lead. 

The Red Devils were in serious need of a foothold in the game and they almost got it through Rhys Williams.

But the winger, on debut, just put his foot in touch with the tryline in his grasp.

It was a moment he would live to regret as Fages dotted down just before half-time to extend his sides lead to 18-2 at the interval, once Coote had converted. 

The second half looked as if it would follow a similar pattern to the first when Naiqama was the beneficiary of quick hands to score in the corner to move Saints further ahead.

However, as you would expect from this Salford outfit, they did at least show some character, with Sio finishing well to cut the deficit back to 16 points, with the score 24-8.

It did not take long for St Helens to soon re-establish their authority, Naiqama scoring his second, thanks to excellent work from the ever-present Lomax.

Youngster Welsby was then able to get in on the act with two scores of his own, even if his second did have an element of luck about it. 

And it was left to Walmsley, fittingly, to have the final say. The prop forcing his way over to complete a wonderful opening night at the Totally Wicked Stadium for the seven-time Super League champions.

By Oli Lathrope