St Helens coach Justin Holbrook was delighted with his youngsters after a second-string Saints line-up put 50 points on Catalans on Sunday.
Facing the only side that’s beaten them so far this season, the table-topping Red Vee were without key men James Roby, Lachlan Coote, Tommy Makinson, Jonny Lomax, Luke Thompson, Morgan Knowles, Mark Percival and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook for the Dragons re-match. But stand-out shifts from James Roby’s heir apparent Aaron Smith, exciting centre Matty Costello and 18-year-old prodigy Jack Welsby meant that Holbrook hardly missed his clutch of sideline stars.
“All the young guys were great,” Holbrook beamed.
“Jack Welsby was fantastic at fullback, Matt Costello scored a hat-trick at centre, and Aaron Smith was one of our best.
“That’s great for our club. Our Academy has done a great job at bringing some really elite young guys through, and we obviously saw a few of them in action today. I had complete confidence that they could play well, that’s for sure, and it was a good time to give a few of them an opportunity.”
Holbrook’s raft of changes to his starting line-up followed the gruelling Easter period, when his troops notched back-to-back victories over Wigan and Hull FC in energy-sapping heat.
Although Thompson, Percival and McCarthy-Scarsbrook face a little longer out of the side, Holbrook expects Roby, Coote and Makinson to return to his teamsheet for Sunday’s clash with Hull KR at Craven Park.
Welsby collected the three Albert Goldthorpe Medal points for being the best player on the pitch in the Dragons’ demolition, and Holbrook couldn’t hide his excitement about the teenage prospect.
Welsby collected a well deserved try in the 67th minute of the rout, capping a mouth-watering 80 minutes for the Saints Academy product.
“He’s an exciting young player and it was great to give him a start today,” said the coach. “He’s only young coming through, but he’s definitely a first-team player of the future, that’s for sure.
“We were really confident to give him a run-on start, and for him to play fullback today, he did a great job.
“I thought everyone stepped up today, which was great.”