THERE were many pleasing features within Saints’ 28-0 win over Huddersfield Giants, with a clean sheet being backed up by some smart and enterprising work with the ball.

A key aspect of Saints’ play was the way that scrum half Lewis Dodd challenged the Giants by deploying a more varied kicking game, backed up by an alert and often aggressive chase.

Dodd still boomed the ball down the field when that was called for, but that was complemented by a range of shorter chips, low-drilling grubbers, and some challenge high balls to ask questions of the defence.

The 22-year-old Widnesian, who scored Saints’ opening score of Super League 2024, has also shown some nice touches with ball in hand as the new-look spine of Dodd, Daryl Clark, Jonny Lomax and Jack Welsby begin to click into place with fresh ideas.

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Following the game on Saturday coach Paul Wellens said: “We're always trying to identify areas we can improve, but giving Lewis a little bit more freedom around his last plays has probably helped him a little bit.

“Quite often we've gone down the path of really prescribing his kicking game where he has to just kick into corners.

“But he's got a lot more to his game than that, and I think in recognising that we allow him the opportunity to express himself.

“And I think he put them the opposition under pressure through his last plays tonight.”

Dodd had plenty of eyes on him 2023 after his return to the fold after a torn Achilles on Good Friday 2022, and that scrutiny intensified after his World Club Challenge winning drop goal at Penrith put him on the NRL radar.

But it was not all plain sailing, but that comes with the territory of wearing the Saints number 7 shirt.

When asked about this on the eve of this season, Wellens said: “People talk about Lewis having a having a tough 2023, and I think that's because there's high expectations around him.

“We have to remind ourselves that (last year) he was a 21-year-old scrum half learning to play the game and learning to organise and manage a team.

“I reference someone like Sean Long here because Sean couldn't do all that at 21, he learned to do that over a period of time and became one of the best players in the world at doing so.

“And I have every confidence that Lewis can go on a similar journey.

“What we have to do with young players is be patient and allow them time to do that.

“I couldn't be more proud of Lewis in terms of how he has approached what many consider a difficult year for him in the right way because he wants to improve.

“He wants to get better as a player and the signs for me are that he has already took on that challenge.

“He's doing that role better than he did it last year and him doing that can have a positive influence on Jack, can have a positive influence on Jonny and have a positive influence on everybody around him. He will continue to work hard.

“And also there's another side of the game with Lewis where he doesn't get credit and that's the defensive side of the game.

“People don't talk about the half back in defence that much, but he’s as good a three-in defender as you'll find in the competition.

“So, if he continues to defend well, keeps working hard on his attacking side of the game then he's as good a number 7 as there is in the competition.”

Dodd underwent shoulder surgery at the end of last season, but still managed to join fellow half back Jonny Lomax in playing in every game.

He obviously had to play through the pain barrier in some of those latter end games, where he played busted.

Wellens added: “A lot of people externally didn’t see that. And look, I can't go out in the media and talk about players playing with injury because then you just put a target on them.

“But he certainly played tough at the back end of last year. We expect that with a lot of our players, but Lewis certainly did that for the team.

“Playing busted is something that a lot of players go through, but it's not easy to do.

“I think we have to respect the fact that he was prepared to do that for the team and that says a lot about him as a player as well.”