LEEDS Rhinos are next up for Saints and Mike Rush is pleased his side are presented with a big challenge on Monday.
After the heart-breaking loss to Wigan in the Quarter Finals of the Challenge Cup, Saints must now throw all their weight into finishing as high up the table as possible.
“It was hard to take,” the Acting Head Coach said. “On the day of the game I knew we missed some opportunities, but didn’t realise how many until I watched the video. Wigan defended well, but we came up with three big defensive errors and got punished.
“That is the nature of big games – you cannot afford not to take chances and you cannot give your opponents easy chances. It was disappointing and frustrating. But we have to take the positive that in those positions once again, we would take the right decisions and know how to correct them.
“We matched Wigan in the forwards and had a lot of ball, but didn’t do enough with it. That brought pressure and we tried to make some tough decisions on the field to get it right. They didn’t work which meant we did things our of character like running when we should have kicked and vice versa. We didn’t execute the way we should have and we now have to look at making sure it does going forward.”
He continued: “Because of that I lot of people are looking at our half backs but I am confident in them. We have Lee Gaskell in the wings who is learning his trade. He played well in the 20s and played well against Wigan in that comp. That is a positive step that the lads in the 20s are playing well enough to put some pressure on first team players.
“But Lance Hohaia and Jonny Lomax work well together even though on this occasion they haven’t executed to the highest order. Things go wrong, but we shouldn’t throw it all away because it goes against us. We need to keep the consistency there.”
Saints travel to Headingley on Monday to take on Leeds Rhinos in the first Monday game of this season’s Stobart Super League.
Rush is confident they will meet the challenge head on.
“It focusses the mind playing Leeds. We had video review on Monday and it was good to get that out of the way so the players knew where they went right and wrong. Now our minds are on Monday’s match. Our target doesn’t change, it is the Grand Final and winning it. That is our goal. Where we have to do it from etc, we’ll look at that later in the year. Our challenge is to finish as high as we can so we give ourselves the best opportunity to win it.
“It’s a big game against Leeds as we are competitive together. They will be using the game at Langtree Park as a motivator to right what went wrong. We’ll be going there expecting nothing but a tough match.
“I like the idea of Monday night football as we are hitting a new audience who are used to watching sport on Monday night before they go to work. But on the flipside it’s probably harder on your loyaler fans who want to go to every game but have to get back and go to work. We hope we can make them happy.”
Saints are likely to be close to full strength at Headingley with both Ade Gardner and Tony Puletua getting closer to full fitness.
Neither are guaranteed their spots though as Mike explains.
“Tommy Makinson’s performance against Wigan was good last week. Even if Ade is fit it doesn’t give him a right to come back in. TP is doing well, but has to go back to the specialist to see if his shoulder is good enough. He wasn’t far off last week and he won’t be this week, but it needs to be right.
“TP knows his body but he needs to be bang on mentally that it is fully healed and ready to go.”
Tickets for the match which kicks off at 8pm on Monday May 21 are now on sale.
You can buy from the Ticket Office at Langtree Park, by calling 01744 455 050 or by logging on to www.saintssuperstore.com