SAINTS boss Justin Holbrook has taken on board the painful lessons learned from last year’s shock semi-final defeat ahead of taking their first steps in this year’s Challenge Cup competition.

Although they travel to ninth-placed Huddersfield’s John Smith’s stadium as favourites on Sunday (6.05pm) - the memories of last August’s defeat by Catalans at Bolton underline that even the most inconsistent of teams can raise their games.

Holbrook said: “When we went to Huddersfield a while back, it took us a while to get on top of them.

“This week with it being the Challenge Cup it is just going to be so much harder again for the fact that everybody knows they have a new lease of life in this comp.

“Nobody proved that better last year than Catalans. You can be as inconsistent as anybody, but you know you just have to get up for a few games and win it.

“That makes it as real level playing field. Sure, we have played great for 14 rounds – and that is good because it does give you confidence.

“You need to be confident in these games, but it also proves that it is on the day that counts.

“And this is our first shot at it.”

St Helens Star:

Saints have not been to Wembley since Daniel Anderson guided the team to his, and the club’s, third cup final win in a row in 2008.

Successors Mick Potter, Royce Simmons, Nathan Brown and Keiron Cunningham have all tried and failed in the subsequent 10 years - the club’s longest post-war absence away from the national stadium.

Last year’s semi defeat - after wins against Castleford and Hull FC, was a first crushing Challenge Cup exit for Holbrook - and not one he wants to experience again.

“It was horrible,” he said.

“It was hard for myself, the rest of the coaching staff and players.

“It was an awful feeling – and there were a lot of disappointed fans in our town as well because we all had high hopes.

“We were not just ticking it off, we knew we had to play well – but we didn’t.

“That is the reality of the Challenge Cup – but that is the beauty of it too.

“We go into Sunday’s game as favourites, looking at where we sit on the table but they are going to come with their best efforts.

“We have to play the way we have been on Sunday and any other rounds that come after it.

Read: Justin Holbrook's Q&A; Smith, Makinson, Naiqama and Furner>

“Last year when we played Hull FC should have been a wake-up call for us because I had never seen Hull play that good. But that was off the back of them going to Wembley and knowing how good it is to get there.”

Although the players are aware of the importance, Holbrook will be keeping training as normal.

“The staff and the players are smart enough to know how to train for this, but there is an extra incentive.

“It is just another game and you play the same – but it means more and there is a difference there for me.

“The Challenge Cup is special – and it has come at a good time.

“We have played 14 games now and need something special and we have got it,” he said.

St Helens Star:

It is likely that Saints will keep the same 17 that beat Hull KR, meaning Matty Costello keeps his place in the centre meaning Tommy Makinson does not have to switch inside.

“It is hard, given Adam Swift is as good a winger as anyone in Super League, but for me Tommy Makinson is THE best winger in Super League.

“At the moment that situation is best settled with Kev and Tommy there on the right, but that is not something that is definitely locked in until Percy comes back – but for the time being that is what we are running with,” he said.