THE Star’s senior sports writer Mike Critchley caught up with Saints boss Nathan Brown to review the Warrington game and look ahead to the Hull game on Friday.
MC: You would have taken that result ahead of the game but you still found things things to work on afterwards?
NB: Definitely we would have taken that score any week, but especially against a big club like Warrington. Warrington created a few chances in the first half but did not get the reward due to our scrambling defence which saved us. We were a touch better in the first half, and although we started the second half a little better than Warrington and then the contest dipped which is not uncommon for the first game of the year.
I don’t think the effort dropped off, maybe a little bit of concentration, game management and execution and I would expect us to improve that this week on the back of beating Warrington, another week’s training and keeping the same team.
MC: Although Warrington were missing forwards Paul Wood and Ben Harrison, you must have been pleased to Saints’ pack throw their weight about?
NB: It was good – we have gone out of our way to bring in a couple of extra big guys, even though a couple of those are not playing at the moment. Kyle Amor showed what a terrific asset he is going to be. Alex is an improved player on last year, which you would expect. All our forwards – Sia, Josh Jones and Anthony Laffranchi all contributed in different ways.
MC: Have you given Anthony Laffranchi a new role – he appeared to be doing the job done so well by Jason Hooper in the past, particularly in harassing the Wolves kickers.
NB: As you have picked up – Boof is definitely doing some things there. He has some different personnel around him that will help his game and he can also help those teammates. The things he did off the ball the other day were important to our success. The key is doing it in the fair spirit of the game because we don’t want to be hitting anyone late, just like we don’t want our own getting hit. Boof’s contribution was important – he helps people out and other people help him. That is what the game is all about.
MC: The travelling fans were in tremendous voice on Thursday – you must be hoping for that to carry on at Langtree Park on Friday night?
NB: They were brilliant. But last year they were the same, even we lost three or four on the bounce and yet they turned up at Cas and were still backing us. In my short time here the fans have been brilliant and it is always good when there are a lot of them up there singing. It would be good to have that here at home for the first game.
MC: Hull have brought in three big men into that front row - Mickey Paea, Garreth Carvell and Feka Paleaaesina – they will give you a big test?
NB: They have some strong blokes on the wing too with Fetuli Talanoa and yes, they have some big blokes who can all carry the ball and when they do that and pop it out the back the likes of Aaron Heremaia and Jamie Shaul become dangerous. They have dangerous players. We need to do what did last week and improve on things to give ourselves a good chance of winning.
MC: Jordan Rankin looked a bit of a handful for Hull?
NB: He can obviously carry the ball and he had a big impact on the Catalan game, scored a good influential try and set another one up in a crucial point of the game. That would have been good for his ego if you are bringing someone over from Australia to play a key position that is what you would expect them to do.
MC: Luke Walsh made a bit of an impression in his first game and seemed to enjoy it?
NB: Luke is a very different player to Rankin and it was very clear why we brought Luke in. We hope that our forwards continue to do a good job and that will help Luke to do his.
For an Aussie, I still recall my first game involved at an English game and hearing the crowd sing. It is very different to back home. The fans were cheering and singing from the warm up. To play his first match in a derby game, for the team to do so well in front of wonderful away support was great. Talking to him afterwards he could not believe what the atmosphere was like.
MC: He seemed to be like a chess master moving his pieces around?
NB: That is what he is good at. He gets players in the right spots and helps the team tick over. Sometimes the bigger blokes need pointing in the right direction.
MC: There will be a fair bit of emotion attached to this game – Steve Prescott meant a lot to a lot of people in this town and at this club?
NB: Yes, I made the point from the players point of view that regardless of the occasion they have got a job to do. If you separate the rugby from it – Steve did a lot for the town and for a broad range of people. A lot of people will have read about what Steve was diagnosed with and then what he went to achieve, he created hope and inspired people.