THERE were plenty of talking points from Saints’ 25-0 win over Huddersfield Giants – a game in which they finished with 11 men after the red card for Sione Mata’utia and yellow for Morgan Knowles.

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1. Sione Mata’utia’s red card.

There is a good reason why moving injured players is frowned upon – particularly as if a player has a genuine head, neck or spinal injury. The rule appears to be rigid on this with Mata’utia being dismissed for grabbing the shirt of Danny Levi after he had gone to ground.

Although it seemed as innocuous as the challenge that preceded it – because the rule is black and white, just like tripping used to be an automatic red, a ban was inevitable.

The logic behind this rule would be that the opposition players would not have the medical knowledge to judge whether moving that ‘injured’ player could cause serious harm.

And some would say that’s the rule, so don’t do it even if you feel your opponent is milking it.

The Match Review Panel looked at it and handed Mata’utia three matches the week after having his previous week’s late tackle charge overturned.

Nobody wants to see injured players moved, but there needs to be a degree of context and flexibility adopted. The rigidity of rules and laws may bring clarity but they end up undermining themselves.

In the 18th century Britain the death penalty was imposed for the crime of grand larceny – stealing anything worth more than 1/20th of a worker’s weekly wage.

It was a rigidly harsh penalty so much so that the stolen goods in question began to be undervalued to save the ‘criminal’ from the rope. Other punishment then came in to play as society moved on.

Each offence should not be seen in black and white, even if that makes it another issue for the referee’s and MRP’s discretion and another one where consistency is questioned.

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2. Will Hopoate early injury.

After playing so well at Magic, Will Hopoate’s frustrating start to his Saints career continued with an early head and shoulder area injury seeing him leave the field early. We will find out the extent tomorrow.

Fingers crossed it is not a bad one. He is just having one of those years having had an excellent record for injury in the NRL. You do wonder whether his inability to get a run and his body battle hardened to week to week combat is contributing to this vicios circle.

It is not as if the injuries are the same.

In the circumstances Saints’ spine reshuffled magnificently with Jack Welsby going to full back, James Roby in to the halves and longer minutes for Joey Lussick.

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3. Joey Lussick.

We have not seen the best out of former Salford and Parramatta number 9, who has been limited to playing just the last quarter most weeks. That is what happens when you play number two hooker behind a machine like James Roby.

With Roby having to go into the halves early last week, Lussick appeared to relish the opportunity and responsibility of playing longer than usual minutes – in fact he look invigorated by it after having to be so patient for so long.

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He was alert at dummy half – and a couple of times he deployed the boot effectively. One of his drop outs, when Saints were under the cosh, really gave the Saints defensive line something to chase which meant the Giants were not hammering on the door at the end of that set.

If Hopoate is out again, Woolf will have no qualms about going with the spine that finished the game – Welsby at one, Roby with Lomax in the halves and Lussick at 9.

4. Jack Welsby.

I reckon we may just be getting to the point where Jack Welsby’s brilliance is now taken as the norm that performances like last Friday’s are simply seen as par for the course. Robes had that for years.

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Starting at six, but slotting back to full back when Will Hopoate went off, Welsby was rock solid in defence getting good solid contact in the tackle and constantly getting across to smother the Giants’ attacks on the edges.

No mean feat given the Giants’ one and then two-man numerical superiority.

With the ball, his long stride sometimes disguises how rapid he is – but Welsby has wheels on him. The way he skipped around Huddersfield centre Toby King for Saints’ third try was top drawer stuff.

His pièce de résistance came eight minutes from time when he joined the line 60m out, dummied to the right to distract two defenders and then raced 30 metres up the middle before sending the supporting Jonny Lomax over the final 30 for the try.

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A quality piece of play. Too often we spend time bemoaning the lack of stars like the Sculthorpes, Longs, Hanleys, Gregorys, Schofields and Edwardses in the modern game instead of shouting from the rooftops when we get one.

Welsby is a real genuine star that those charged with marketing the game once IMG get their feet under the table should be squeezing every bit of positive promotion out of.

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5. Away support.

Not for the first time this year we saw a sparsely attended away end, with the third-placed Huddersfield bringing approximately four coachloads for this top of the table clash.

Obviously Friday night trips across the M62 are a nightmare – and Leeds didn’t bring so many three weeks earlier. But neither did Hull KR last month – and that was a Sunday. Are we beginning to see the effects of cost of living and price of petrol on the sport?

It will be interesting to see Saints numbers on the trip to Wakefield this Sunday.

I made the point on Twitter on Friday that given away fans numbers are now so paltry, particularly from Yorkshire, that nobody can use the no travelling fan argument against Catalans and Toulouse any more.

But it may mean that the creative ideas clubs come up with when they host the French sides to fill away ends may have to be deployed for games against more traditional foe so we are not looking at a really sparsely populated East Stand.

Any suggestions?

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6. League Leaders Shield

In his Star Q&A last week Kristian Woolf was asked where the League Leaders Shield fits – given it has evaded the club for a couple of years.

His response underlined that no matter how much we try to engineer the reward for finishing top – the key focus is success at Old Trafford and “to make sure we put ourselves in the best position to have success in the Grand Final.”

Saints are currently in the driving seat to finish top, four points clear and a healthy for and against with eight games to play – but Woolf added: “If we need to make decisions that means we don’t win a League Leaders but it puts in a better position to win a Grand Final – then that is a priority and we will make those decision.

“If we can put ourselves in a position to win both we certainly want to try and do that.”

Although you’d back Saints to finish top this year – and receive the platitudes that this is a reward for consistency, you can see just why very few people since 2019 have felt that we have missed out by not winning the shield. And as long as the Champions are the Grand Final winners that will remain the case.