REGAN Grace took all the headlines for his outstanding hat-trick in the 23-18 defeat of the Huddersfield Giants in the Betfred Challenge Cup quarter final.

But yet again in was that man, Mr Perpetual Motion himself James Roby who had as big an influence as any in helping his team reach the semi-finals - and therefore just 80 minutes from Wembley.

The skipper led from the front as the Saints were dealt an early blow with the loss of Tommy Makinson after just three minutes with a recurring foot injury. Roby, after LMS also left the field was a force to put an 80 minutre shift in, with 25 minutes in the unaccustomed loose forward role. But nothing changed as he led the way in both attack and defence.

Coach Kristian Woolf was full of praise for the Welsh flyer Grace. Woolf said the 24 year old winger had been quiet of late but certainly came back with a bang..scoring three tries that all needed scoring. Grace celebrated this week a new one year extension to his contact keeping him with us until the end of the 2022 season.

A win is a win in the Betfred Challenge Cup, and priority is getting in the bag for the next round, and mission achieved. However, there is certainly a lot more improvement in the teams performances from what we have seen in the last few weeks. We sometimes fall into the trap of trying to beat teams at their own game...why? We are the champions for a reason, we have the best players and are renowned for the best brand of rugby. I feel the last couple of weeks we have been drawn in to try and outmuscle our opponents. This has made us look very clunky on attack, combined with far too many errors, and obviously losing key players does help this. One thing that has delighted the boss is the work ethic and commitment to get the job done.

We now face a revived Hull FC in the semi final. I have seen massive improvements in the black and whites now under the direction of former Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel winner Brett Hodgson. He has clearly been working on their defence, which looks like has coincided with a swing in attitude and culture at the club. Saints will certainly have to sharpen their attack if they are to reach Wembley on July 17.

Challenge Cup sponsors Betfred rightly have Saints as favourites to pick up the silverware, currently 8/11, with Warrington next at 11/4..and outsiders Castleford at 5/1.

Back to the Betfred Super League this week, and it’s former Saints Assistant Richard Marshalls Salford Red Devils who travel to the TWS on Monday. They won’t be the only ones though as finally we see the long awaited return of fans to the games. As part of the Government’s easing of lockdown, clubs are permitted to open up for maximum 4000 fans...and how good this will be to see.

Salford will be looking to try and kickstart their season after the solitary one win against Leigh in Super League and last week narrowly exiting the Challenge Cup after a golden point defeat to the Castleford Tigers.

This could be time for the Saints to be utterly ruthless and put the Red Devils to the sword with a clinical performance. The biggest challenge is not being complacent and ‘expecting’ to win and maintain a 100% winning record in 2021. I think we will do the former and I’m going for a 20 points or more win (evens with Betfred).

Finally, Lachlan Coote has been in the headlines about whether he will commit his future to the club after the 2021 season ends. The Aussie full back, who comes to the end of his three year deal, has admitted that Covid has had a big impact on his family this year.

Understandably, during this unprecedented year lots of people have found restrictions extremely tough. To be the other side of the world away from family and friends must have been even more difficult.

I really hope Cootey looks to extend his current deal from 2022 onwards, because he’s a world class player, a great bloke and no doubt someone who has a massive impact on others in the changing rooms with his vast experience and leadership qualities.