St Helens 2020 Betfred Super League Review


” St Helens celebrate becoming back to back Super League champions” Photo credit :

The Betfred Super League Season was a season of change and new challenges for both players and coaches, with no fans able to attend games and the introduction of new rules.

One thing that didn’t change was the brilliance of St Helens with back to back Betfred Super League titles achieved.

St Helens – 

The Saints began the 2020 season as Super League champions, having beat Ian Watson’s Salford Red Devils in the Grand Final at Old Trafford in 2019. St Helens coach Justin Holbrook left the Saints at the end of the season to return to Australia to take over as head coach of the Gold Coast Titans. International manager of Tonga, Kristian Woolf. replaced Justin Holbrook ahead of the 2020 season.

The Saints began the season at home against Salford in which they scored eight tries whilst running out as comfortable winners. After the opening round win, the champions form was inconsistent though by losing three of their first five games, which included their long unbeaten home run being broken, with some fans already wanting Woolf to be sacked.

The Super League season paused like many sports due to the global Coronavirus pandemic and this was a turning point in the Saints season as it allowed Woolf to have his influence on the team. It also saw one man out the door, with Luke Thompson moving to Canterbury Bulldogs, and one man in, with a Saints legend returning to his boyhood club to finish his career in James Graham. A signing who proved to be influential both on and off the field.

After the break, the Saints went on to win their next ten Super League matches taking them to the top of the league. The only negative coming in the Challenge Cup with a Quarter Final loss to Warrington Wolves. A trophy that has avoided the Saints since 2008.

The first loss after the break came against the Salford Red Devils. This loss left Saints level on points with local rivals Wigan Warriors at the top of the Super League ahead of their clash at the Totally Wicked Stadium. Wigan came away with the win on derby day which saw being sent to the top of the league and as a result saw Wigan going on to win the league leaders shield which ultimately stopped the Saints from winning it for a third consecutive season by finishing second.

The Saints faced the Catalan Dragons in a home Super League Semi Final. A game which saw the Saints book their place in a second consecutive Grand Final, after an impressive eight try victory over the Dragons, with Kevin Naiqama grabbing the headlines with a hat-trick in a man of the match performance.

In the 2020 Super League Grand Final, it was the top two sides in the Super League, as the reigning Super League champions St Helens faced their bitter rivals the Wigan Warriors. A game which was dominated by both defences, it turned out to be the game of the season, and a game which would live long in the memory of every Saints fan.

The Saints led 2-0 at half time via a Lachlan Coote penalty in the closing stages of the half, but Wigan hit back with a try giving them a 4-2 lead. Minutes later saw the Saints being awarded a penalty as they levelled the game at 4-4 with six minutes remaining. Wigan had the opportunity to win the game with two minutes left when they were given a penalty on the half way line, but Zak Hardaker saw his attempt fall short.

Then a moment which will live long in the Saints and rugby league fans memories. With only seconds left, Tommy Makinson attempted a drop goal, he saw his effort bounce back of the post and into the field of play. Jack Welsby was the quickest to react, with the ball bouncing in the in-goal area, he beat Wigan’s Bevan French to the ball and managed to ground it before going out of play with no seconds left on the clock. After consultation with the video referee, the try was awarded, and the Saints were crowned Super League Champions again.

A perfect end to Kristian Woolf’s first season as Saints coach.

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