Champions St Helens visit Craven Park looking to carry on their perfect record this season, having won their first three matches, as they aim to make history and become the first side in Super League history to win four consecutive titles.
It won’t be an easy task though at a ground where Saints have notoriously struggled and Hull KR will be in buoyant mood having picked up their first win of the season in impressive fashion last week against Castleford.
It’s ominous for the rest of Super League that Kristian Woolf’s side haven’t got out of second gear in 2022, yet they still sit top of the table. Last Friday’s 20-4 victory over Wakefield was evidence of St Helens’ being a champion team, as they won comfortably despite falling short of their incredibly high standards.
The big news for Hull KR head coach Tony Smith is that Lachlan Coote is set to return against his former side. The Scotland international, who enjoyed a trophy-laden stint with Saints, has been out with a hamstring injury suffered in the opening round loss to Wigan. It’s mixed news overall for the Robins though who will welcome back Albert Vete alongside Coote, but Luis Johnson, Ben Crooks and Will Maher all remained sidelined.
For St Helens, Curtis Sironen is suspended and will be replaced by James Bell, but the big news is the return of Will Hopoate. Fans of the redvee are still yet to see the best of the 29-year-old Tongan international, who was one of Saints’ star signings ahead of this season. The former Manly, Parramatta and Canterbury back returns this week after sitting out the last two rounds with a rib injury.
Match Preview – Key battles:
Matt Parcell vs James Roby: The two hookers will be vital in this match for two teams that thrive on quick play-the-balls. Former Leeds man Parcell was in superb form last week and was at the heart of nearly everything Rovers did right in their victory of Castleford. It’s hard to believe, but James Roby is 36 and still looks like the best no.9 in the competition. Though the forward battle may determine which of these players shines the most, knowing when to run and finding the right pass selection could be the deciding factor in this game.
Matty Storton vs Alex Walmsley: The apprentice will look to outshine the master in the battle of the props on Friday night. Matty Storton has really developed his game under Tony Smith since joining from Bradford in 2020 and he will be looking to emulate the career of Alex Walmsley and potentially join him in the England squad for the World Cup. Walmsley is almost 10 years Storton’s senior and is still regarded as the most devastating prop in the competition, so it will be interesting to see how the young Hull KR man matches up against him in this one.
Where the game will be won and lost:
Saints will be keen to play this match down the middle because they know they have the beating of almost every team in the competition when it comes to the forward battle. Wakefield had a go at Saints last week and they were reasonably successful as they played an expansive game for large periods. If there is a team that doesn’t need an invitation to throw the ball around in Super League then it’s Hull KR. They live and die by their creative philosophy which makes them very dangerous; if the passes stick they are capable of beating anyone on their day. The only issue here is that Saints are also class in the wide areas and have some of the best wide attack and defence in the competition, so although the match may be in the balance for the most part, St Helens’ quality will likely shine through in the final quarter and allow them to continue their perfect start to the season.
Score prediction: Hull KR 16-28 St Helens