James Graham makes huge claim about St Helens as he explains how they defeated Penrith

James Graham is a St Helens legend and also one of the best British players to play in the NRL.

So, he is best placed to give his analysis of how St Helens stunned Penrith Panthers in the World Club Challenge.

Speaking on his podcast The Bye Round, Graham explained that the little things as well as Paul Wellens’ game plan were the key rather than placing the focus on Penrith like others.

He said: “I don’t know if it was Justin Holbrook but I know with Kristian Woolf, he was into us about jumping on loose balls. If it spills out you had to get there, that was one of his things that he was so pedantic about. That’s a trait that’s carried on.

“One of the things I looked at the game, some things that look like little moments but they are big moments.

“I rate Moses Leota as one of the toughest players in the competition, I remember saying last year that he’s the only person I’ve ever seen rock Latrell Mitchell. Matty Lees, who would 105 kilos and 24 or 25, takes him on in the first tackle.

“That takes balls, that for me set the tone. How many front rowers in this competition go head to head with Moses Leota, and then come out on top. Not many. I love watching that man play over here for Penrith but Saints from the get-go went after him.

“The Welsby try save on Cleary, what a moment that is. It was amazing. A lot of people look at Welsby’s attack and it is top level but those are the types of plays that all the top full-backs do. All the top full-backs are brilliant defensively and that’s what he was.

“With the ball in hand he was sensational. I think he’s the best exponent at picking off short sides in the game. We saw him do it with England, I was speaking to him one on one in the build up and he thought he could do it again.

“He looked at the edges of Penrith and the tape in the Samoan team and he reckoned he had a shot, him and Lomax worked those short sides. It could be a bit of a blueprint for the rest of the NRL for how to break Penrith down, the very aggressive up and in defence on their shifts followed by looking to pick up some short sides.”

Meanwhile, Graham claimed that this Saints side are the best of the modern era:

“In the modern era yes, I don’t know about all the teams throughout history but the only team I think that could rival it is the Wigan teams of the ’80s and the early ’90s. They were pretty special, they were professional before anyone else and had some of the games greatest ever British players play for them.

“With St Helens I was part of the 2006 team which people back in St Helens they’d argue about whether they rival the 1966 team. That team we went on to win a World Club Challenge but you see this St Helens team now. To win four in a row is a ridiculous achievement and then to cap it of and I think with that result it’s the best team of the Super League era.

“Some of those Leeds teams and the St Helens team of ’06 but this team now will go down in history. I am so happy and so proud for the team, the players, the club, the town and for Super League in general because a lot of people don’t seem to give it the respect that I think it deserves.

“The thing as well is that people over here see Super League as an attacking competition, ‘oh he’ll do well in Super League because he’s really good in attack’. Well St Helens won through their defence.

“They’re going for their fifth in a row, I hope this doesn’t take too much from them. They sacrificed so much to come here to put it all on the line, they’ve really damaged their chance of domestic success. They go back as winners and this will install that belief that they can beat anyone.”

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