Whitehaven vs St Helens: Team news, match preview and score prediction

Whitehaven could not have hoped for a bigger draw in the Challenge Cup as holders and reigning Super League Champions St Helens come to town.

It’s a deserved big tie for a club who defied the odds in the Championship last year entertaining neutrals on their way to the play-offs. With Super League’s best club making the journey over to meet the gutsy Whitehaven, it should be a fantastic occasion.

But for St Helens, it’s all about business. Kristian Woolf’s men will have their hearts set on the treble in 2022 and, after a shock defeat last week, they will be in a ruthless mood.

Team News:

Whitehaven have prop Tom Walker back replacing Kieran Hudson due to Hudson’s unavailability in cup games as part of his loan agreement with Castleford. Guy Graham is also available despite his two-match suspension with the ban set to take effect in the next round of the Championship.

The big news for St Helens is the return of Regan Grace with the Welsh wizard is set to figure for the first time this season. Joe Batchelor is also back in the fold for the Champions. Meanwhile, Matty Lees drops out through injury whilst the impressive Josh Simm’s stint in the side ends due to Grace’s return. Head Coach Kristian Woolf has confirmed that James Bell picked up a shoulder injury and therefore will not be involved in the side. Alex Walmsley, Sione Mata’utia and Will Hopoate are all still injured.

Match Preview – Key Battles:

Ryan King vs Curtis Sironen: Having scored twice in Whitehaven’s win over York to book their place in this round, King picked up another try last week as he impresses for Whitehaven. The backrower is in for a treat up against former NRL star Curtis Sironen. A top class player set for another start in the absence Sione Mata’utia, Sironen will take on King who will be relishing the chance to test himself against him.

Connor Holliday vs Joe Batchelor: Like King, Connor Holliday has shone recently also scoring against York. He’s up against Joe Batchelor who last year showed that work rate and determination can cement a player as one of the best in the league. Batchelor took his chance and by the end of the season was a Super League Champion showing the likes of Holliday and King that working hard can help them reach the next step of their career.

Alex Bishop vs Jonny Lomax: When Alex Bishop signed for Whitehaven I doubt he expected to be up against the country’s best halfback so soon. A frequent scorer for Whitehaven, he’ll be central to their attack. But he’ll be up against one of the best halves around and will need to be at his very best. It’ll be a special occasion for Bishop not matter the result as he takes on the side his grandfather and cup winner Tommy Bishop was such a hero for.

Where the game will be won and lost:

For Whitehaven, it’s all about damage control. Against a side who routinely eases passed the best of Super League, victory seems virtually impossible but as Toulouse showed last week as they beat the Champions, you never know. Halifax showed in 2019 that the Saints can be frustrated in a game like this, but to do so Haven will have to limit the Saints’ go forward and defend for their lives on their own line.

Score Prediction: Whitehaven 6-50 St Helens

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