In recent weeks, there’s been talk that St Helens could go the season unbeaten in 2022 echoing the footballing achievements of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side of 2004.
No side has ever achieved such a feat in Super League so the statement that this St Helens side could shows just how good they are both in terms of their starting 17 but also their squad. They’ve looked perfect in the first five rounds and are on course for a fourth consecutive title.
If they are to go the league campaign unbeaten, they’ll forever write themselves in the history books no matter what happens on Grand Final night. But can it really be done? Well, today we’re looking at the teams who’ve gone the closest to doing so and you can make your assessment on whether this St Helens side can do better.
St Helens and Wigan Warriors 1996
In 1996 St Helens finally wrestled the title away from Wigan who had built something of a monopoly over silverware during the final days of winter rugby. Both lost just twice during the league campaign with St Helens scooping up the inaugural Super League title on points difference in the days of first passed the post. St Helens would only lose one more game outside of the league campaign winning the Challenge Cup but losing the Premiership Final to Wigan. The Cherry and Whites, like St Helens, only lost one more game in the season as they went on to win the Premiership but lost for the first time for nearly a decade in the Challenge Cup as Salford knocked them out.
Bradford Bulls 1997
A year later, Bradford would claim the Super League title by finishing top of the pile with the exact same record as the top two from the previous season with 20 wins from 22 games. In terms of the teams to go the closest to a season unbeaten, this Bulls side were the closest winning their first 20 games as they cruised to the title famously maintaining their unbeaten run with a come back win over Halifax. Sadly, the accolade of being Super League’s first unbeaten team alluded them as they took their foot off the gas losing to Wigan and second-place London in the last two games.
Wigan Warriors 1998
20 wins from 22 games was the magic formula to finish top of the pile in the early days of Super League as Wigan produced that record as they finished top of the pile in 1998. Interestingly, their two defeats came at the hands of the same team as Leeds did the double over the Warriors as they chased down Wigan from second place. Wigan did have the beating of Leeds when it mattered beating the Rhinos in the Grand Final. The only other team to beat Wigan in 1998 were the Sheffield Eagles who shocked Wigan in the Challenge Cup Final in one of the biggest upsets in cup final history.
Wigan Warriors 2000
This Wigan side are the only team in this list to not end the season as Champions. Nonetheless, they were sublime in the league campaign losing just three times during a 28-game campaign. They drew one game as well leaving them with a remarkable tally of 49 points. Unfortunately for the Warriors, they lost twice after the league campaign to St Helens as the Saints came from second to claim the title.
Leeds Rhinos 2004
In 2004, Leeds ended their 32-year wait to be crowned Champions, but it had also been a 32-year wait since the club had finished top of the table and the Rhinos finally returned to top spot in some style losing just two games during a 28-game season as they tallied up 50 league points playing some amazing rugby league. The Rhinos lost to Wigan away 26-22 and were surprisingly hit for 50 by St Helens in Round Nine.
St Helens 2019
Most of these teams came within the first decade of Super League, but the team to come the closest to a season unbeaten in recent years was unsurprisingly this St Helens side earlier in their journey. 2019 was perhaps when the Saints were at their attacking best as they finished the season just one Wembley defeat away from the treble. But, turning to the league campaign, the Saints lost just three times in 29 games. Their first defeat came against Catalans, the toughest place in the league to go away and win at, and when the Dragons later came to the Totally Wicked Stadium, the Saints hit them for 50. They would only lose twice more oddly against eventually relegated London playing weakened teams against the Broncos.