Barba shines as Saints put down a play-off marker

St Helens put down a marker for the forthcoming Super League semi-final play-offs with a decisive 14-34 victory over their neighbours Warrington Wolves at the Halliwell Jones Stadium today.

The two teams will face each other again in a fortnight’s time at the Totally Wicked Stadium and St Helens will go into that match as strong favourites after this dominant display, which saw fullback Ben Barba return to the sort of form that had thrilled Saints supporters earlier in the season.

They were no doubt helped, however, by the loss of Warrington’s halfback partnership in the first half, with Tyrone Roberts suffering a head knock and Kevin Brown a hamstring injury, which blunted the Wolves’ attack, which was also missing hooker Daryl Clark, for the rest of the game.

Saints came into the game without the talismanic James Roby, with Morgan Knowles deputising at dummy-half, while they also started with youngsters Matty Lees at prop, James Bentley in the back row and Jack Ashworth on the bench.

After Richardson kicked an early penalty the Wolves lost Roberts in the thirteenth minute after his head was caught by Lees’ leg, but they took the lead on 23 minutes when Kevin Brown stepped nicely around the Saints defence with a deceptive run to the line, with Dec Patton adding the goal.

The video-referee turned down an appeal by Ryan Atkins for a second Warrington try, and Saints took the lead with two tries in the final ten minutes of the first half, with Luke Douglas forcing his way over and Regan Grace touching down in the corner after a great combination by the Saints backs. Richardson converted the first, but missed the second, for a 6-12 interval scoreline.

Jonny Lomax extended their lead with a beautiful try on 50 minutes, and two minutes later Ryan Morgan made a great break from his own half and passed to Richardson for the touchdown.

Barba was the next to score, giving Saints a 6-28 lead on 58 minutes, and although Toby King grabbed a try back for Warrington, Barba’s second on 76 minutes meant that Bryson Goodwin’s acrobatic effort just inside the corner post on 78 minutes had no bearing on the final result.

Wolves: 1 Stefan Ratchford, 27 Josh Charnley, 4 Ryan Atkins, 18 Toby King, 3 Bryson. Goodwin, 6 Kevin Brown, 7 Tyrone Roberts, 8 Chris Hill, 15 Dec Patton, 10 Mike Cooper, 13 Ben Murdoch-Masila, 30 Bodene Thompson, 34 Ben Westwood; Subs: 17 Joe Philbin, 19 George King, 20 Harvey Livett, 22 Morgan Smith

Tries: K Brown, T King, Goodwin; Goal: Patton

Saints: 23 Ben Barba, 2 Tommy Makinson, 3 Ryan Morgan, 4 Mark Percival, 19 Regan Grace, 1 Jonny Lomax, 18 Danny Richardson, 20 Matty Lees, 15 Morgan Knowles, 16 Luke Thompson, 11 Zeb Taia, 24 James Bentley, 12 Jon Wilkin; Subs: 6 Theo Fages, 14 Luke Douglas, 17 Dominique Peyroux, 21 Jack Ashworth

Tries: Douglas, Grace 2, Lomax, Richardson, Barba 2; Goals: Richardson 5

A full report and photos from this game will feature in Monday’s edition of League Express, available at all good newsagents and can be downloaded digitally.