St Helens coach Kristian Woolf has praised the three Saints debutants who played in the club’s 26-14 defeat at Salford Red Devils on Friday night, while also expressing relief at having come through the game with no injuries.
They had led 14-4 but conceded just on half time and were rattled just after the break – and could not get the points to get back in the game.
Fullback Jon Bennison, who made a tryscoring debut, winger Shay Martyn, the son of St Helens legend Tommy Martyn, and backrower Sam Royle were all selected in the starting lineup, helping St Helens to a 14-4 lead just two minutes before half-time, before former St Helens player Matty Costello pulled a try back for the Red Devils to make it 14-12 at half-time, with Salford scoring two converted tries in the second half to win the game.
And it wasn’t just the debutants Woolf was pleased with, with youthful centre Ben Davies also figuring prominently and veteran Jonny Lomax returning to the team at stand-off.
“I am really proud of the effort – we had three debutants and a lot of young guys who have not played for a very long time,” said Woolf, whose team was missing Lachlan Coote, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, James Roby, Morgan Knowles, Sione Mata’utia and Joe Batchelor for a game that, win or lose, would have no bearing on St Helens’ finishing position in Super League.
“It was great to be able to give them an opportunity and a good run,” said Woolf.
“The three debutants all handled themselves well and showed they were right up to that level.
“There were a number of really good performances from guys who haven’t played much footy.
“Ben Davies deserves a real rap – he had a hand in the two tries we scored in the first half, defended well and looked like he was a threat.
“It was great to see Jon Bennison score a try on his debut. He did a great job on the try, making himself available and pushing right through and still needed some effort to score.
“He had a terrific game. He’s trained with us six or seven times this year and has shown how hard he is prepared to train and compete.”
With St Helens now having a week off before the start of the play-offs, Woolf was also happy to see Lomax making a timely return to the team.
“It was important for Jonny to get some game time,” he said.
“He is obviously a key player for us. We knew he was fit and healthy, but it was important for us that he got a good run and had some confidence in himself.
“He and Lewis Dodd combined really well in the first half, if you look at the footy we played off the back of their combination.”
Last week Saints confirmed the signing of former Salford hooker Joey Lussick from Parramatta Eels on a three-year deal from 2022.
Lussick made 59 appearances, scoring 18 tries for Salford in 2019 and 2020.
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