Huddersfield Giants’ five-match winning run in the First Utility Super League was ended last night, home captain Paul Wellens leading from the front as St Helens responded to his verbal broadside with a dominant performance.
Wellens had labelled his side’s 41-24 defeat by Warrington an “embarrassment” while coach Nathan Brown questioned his players’ attitude, but both will be delighted with the way they bounced back to record this victory over the Giants at Langtree Park.
Wellens was among the tryscorers on his record-equalling 419th Super League appearance as he turned the clock back by reclaiming his old full-back spot in the absence of the injured Jonny Lomax, one of seven regulars missing from the Saints’ line-up.
St Helens, who lost 40-4 in the corresponding match in 2013, were supercharged from the kick-off and they stung their visitors with three tries in the first 13 minutes.
Influential Australian scrum-half Luke Walsh got Saints rolling by putting second row Jon Wilkin through a gap to create the position for Sia Soliola to get centre Gary Wheeler over for the first of his two tries.
Impressive hooker James Roby then broke out of his own half to send stand-off Lance Hohaia over before Wellens finished off a half-break from Walsh to touch down.
Walsh converted all three scores to make it 18-0 but Huddersfield gradually worked their way into the game and pulled a try back on 17 minutes when forward Larne Patrick took Danny Brough’s pass to charge over from 10 metres out.
Brough’s goal cut the deficit to 12 points but former Huddersfield winger Matty Dawson made it 22-6 after taking Wellens’s pass to score a fourth try after initially intercepting near his own line to break up a dangerous attack from the Giants.
Hohaia also had a ‘try’ disallowed by video referee Phil Bentham for obstruction but Saints were good value for their 16-point interval lead which they quickly built on in the second half.
A knock-on by Jason Chan inside his own half gifted Saints the ideal attacking position and they made the most of it, with Wilkin racing onto Walsh’s kick over the defence to touch down.
Winger Ben Blackmore briefly gave the visitors hope with a try on his first appearance of the season after his centre Leroy Cudjoe had regathered possession from the restart but it did little to halt Saints’ momentum.
Barnstorming prop Mose Masoe took Roby’s pass short of the line to double his try tally for the club before Huddersfield’s England forward Brett Ferres marked his 200th Super League appearance by touching down Brough’s kick for a try.
The game really opened up in the final quarter, with Wheeler hacking on a loose ball to grab his second try and Cudjoe pouncing on a handling error at the other end to enable Blackmore to double his match tally while the video referee disallowed other efforts at either end.
Walsh took his goal tally to six from seven attempts before wrapping up the scoring with a drop-goal 90 seconds from the end.
St Helens: Wellens, Makinson, Turner, Wheeler, Dawson, Hohaia, Walsh, Masoe, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Wilkin, Flanagan, Soliola. Substitutes: Greenwood, Walker, Richards, Thompson.
Huddersfield Giants: Grix, Blackmore, Cudjoe, Wardle, Murphy, Brough, Robinson, Crabtree, Lunt, Kopczak, Ferres, Chan, Patrick. Substitutes: Faiumu, Ta’ai, Wood, Mullally.
Referee: R Silverwood (RFL).