Written by Callum Walker
It was three wins from six prior to the lockdown for St Helens under new boss Kristian Woolf with many supporters and pundits wondering just where things were going wrong.
It had been two seasons of utter dominance by the Lancashire club with Justin Holbrook as head coach. But, with Holbrook departing to take charge of struggling NRL side Gold Coast Titans, it was time for a different direction.
Tonga boss Woolf took over the reins and though Saints recorded big wins over Salford, Hull FC and Toronto, they fell weirdly short against Warrington. In between the victories over Hull and Toronto, a 20-12 loss to the Sydney Roosters in the World Club Challenge threatened to take a lot out of them, as is customary for English champions.
That proved true as back-to-back defeats against Huddersfield and Castleford just before the lockdown showed that Woolf had some way to go to get this Saints side firing on all cylinders.
It was sixth position they occupied as the season restarted last weekend. Now, however, Saints are second following easy victories over Catalans and Leeds, the latter in true emphatic fashion with a 48-0 drubbing.
Woolf remarked in the press conference prior to the Leeds game that his Saints side had done it tough before the season was postponed. A number of injuries, as well as the World Club Challenge, had taken a lot out of the side. Add the loss of star prop Luke Thompson to the NRL and some were predicting the Lancashire club to fall further off the pace.
Regan Grace has quite rightly grabbed the headlines, but who can forget James Graham’s first try back in Saints colours! 😍
🗣️ A bit of friendly ‘sledging’ from Jammer too! 🤬 pic.twitter.com/q1nTT2QXHO
— St.Helens R.F.C. (@Saints1890) August 10, 2020
Instead, it has been Saints that are arguably now setting the pace. Though behind Wigan at the top on points difference, St Helens are the ones making the rest of Super League sit up and take notice once more.
An eight-try hammering of Leeds – who themselves registered an impressive comeback win over Huddersfield the week before – outlined the strike force they possess all over the field.
A scintillating Regan Grace hat-trick, a 100% kicking record from Lachlan Coote and the sight of the returning James Graham was enough to convince many supporters and pundits that the Red Vee will be incredibly difficult to stop in 2020.
They will surely be there or thereabouts come November if they continue to perform like they have done post-lockdown and who will begrudge them that success?