21 Dec 2020

Season Review: St Helens

The 2020 season has been a year of change in Betfred Super League. No fans and the introduction of new rules presented a unique challenge for players and coaches to overcome. 

One thing that didn’t change was the excellence of St Helens. Back-to-back titles were secured with the thrilling win over Wigan Warriors in the Grand Final. Even if they had to spend it watching on their sofas rather than inside a packed stadium, it’s a night that no Saints fan is ever likely to forget.

And yet, there were some whispers about whether new head coach Kristian Woolf was the right man for the job back in March. 

His side lost matches to Warrington Wolves, Huddersfield Giants and Castleford Tigers. It left Saints languishing in mid-table before Covid-19 brought a halt to the season. 

After the resumption, those doubts were quickly put to bed. 

James Graham returned and the Red Vee were back to their brilliant best - rediscovering the ruthlessness of 2019 in the process. 

They won 10 matches on the bounce to re-establish themselves as the best team in the competition. The combative Alex Walmsley and the excellence of Lachlan Coote were instrumental in that run. 

Saints fans have been given a glimpse into the future along the way. Matty Lees and James Bentley both played integral roles in 2020. Bentley’s 69 tackles in the Grand Final was an unbelievable effort.

Across the whole season, no team averaged more tries a game than Saints. They also led the per game average in carries, metres, tackle busts and quick play-the-balls. No side, apart from Warriors, can match the intensity of Saints when they are on-song.

It was only a defeat to Warriors in October that meant they missed out on the League Leaders’ Shield for the first time in three years. However, Saints would have their revenge come Grand Final night – winning their eighth Super League crown and sending the retiring Graham off on the perfect note.   

Player of the year

I’m going to pick James Roby. He just seems to keep getting better and better. Saints struggled at the start of the season when Roby was injured and look a totally different side with him in it. His Grand Final performance was remarkable. Roby made 56 tackles in that match on his way to winning his second Harry Sunderland Trophy. In fact, he’s only missed five tackles all season at a completion rate of 99%. Paul McShane was a deserving Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel winner, but Roby is still Super League’s best hooker. 

Best moment 

There’s no debate about this. You just cannot look past that famous night at the KCOM Stadium. The passion, emotion and intensity in that match was incredible. It could have gone either way, but Saints were deserving winners. We are unlikely to see a finish to a Grand Final quite like it again. It’s just a shame no fans were there to see it. 

Grade: A 

Saints weren’t quite the dominant force of 2019, but they are still the best team in Super League. Missing out on the League Leaders’ Shield was simply a bump in the road as they secured another title. I would not be surprised if they make it three in a row in 2021.

By Oli Lathrope

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