WHILST disappointed with the friendly defeat to Huddersfield Giants on Monday night, Saints’ Head Coach Royce Simmons did take positives from the 36-12 reverse.
Kyle Eastmond made his first start after suffering ankle injuries at the back end of last season – playing for 30 minutes – whilst teammate Jonny Lomax also got through the match without any adverse reaction.
And, Gary Wheeler proved he could be the man to fill the centre role this season.
“I am disappointed in as far as I would’ve liked to have a win,” he said, “so we can head into the game in a fortnight the right way. That would have added to our confidence.
“But I thought we did some good things in the first half. The plan was to only ever to play Kyle for 30 minutes and when he was out there we looked pretty strong, But Leon [Pryce] then tweaked his groin so we ended up with Gary Wheeler and Lomax in the halves.
Credit to Jonny though, he hasn’t done much training with us and he jumped straight into that role.
“Kyle felt his way through the game and wanted to stay on, but we knew that under fatigue he could have picked up another injury.
“Everyone has been asking about Gary Wheeler and what his position is and I think we have found it in the centres. He did a couple of good things there and I felt with the discovery of his position as well as Kyle and Jonny, there were some bright things tonight.”
He continued: “I took this game as a friendly and to try out some combinations so it was my fault there wasn’t a specialist kicker out there. I also thought we were off in attack – not our usual free flowing selves – but we will fix that up pretty quick.
“We crossed the line three times but didn’t score and those ‘tries’ would have added more confidence.
“Defensively, I thought we were ok in the first half but when we made changes in the second they got round the ruck which is very un-St Helens-like and something we need to look at.
“I was also disappointed at the end of the game with the short kick off and the way we pushed the ball on our line. The game may have finished 24-12 and although I would not have been happy with the result, we might have gone away with something after a good first half. You can lose, but you don’t want to get beaten and things like that could be vital in the comp ladder with the for and against.”
Royce also made comment on the amount of penalties in the game – 34 – and how Saints couldn’t capitalise.
“I don’t think they suited us,” he added. “We got penalties but it was hard to get momentum out of them as they were on the first tackle so there was no fatigue in the opposition too. That’s how the league want to play it this year by quickening it up and Steve
Ganson was only refereeing to the rules that have been set in the league.
“But if they don’t change then I’m going to find the biggest bunch of monsters I can and play up the park. I want to play entertaining footy, but with quick play the balls like that, that’s what you’ll get. Quick play the balls don’t always mean an entertaining game, they usually mean one man up as you don’t have to move the ball. You will get a fast game, but you’re only going one way forward though.”