SAINTS coach Paul Wellens was asked about aspects of Friday's win over Leigh that he liked and disliked.

He also explained Waqa Blake's absence and gave a fitness update on Curtis Sironen, who left the field.

St Helens Star:

MC: Early doors it was quite messy with attempts to force things with offloads and a few of the set ends were poor in that first 20 minutes or so. Did you get a message out to the players or did they sort that themselves?

PW: One thing that we have worked hard on is our attack and I've spoken a little bit about that and the players have also spoken a little bit about that, but I think there was a feeling tonight that it was just going to happen.

And that's never the case. You have to make it happen at all.

I thought to Leigh’s credit, they came with a real good intent around their defensive work and committing numbers to the tackle made it really difficult for us at times.

And that's where we have to be prepared to be a little bit more patient and I don't think we were tonight.

MC: Sometimes it felt you were trying to fight your way out of a sack the way they were up on the edges and how quickly they were off their line?

PW: Yeah, and again that is a lesson moving forward - teams don't come here to roll over and have the bellies tickled.

They come here to play because they got have a healthy respect for this team and what they've achieved in these years and they see this game as a chance to put down a marker of where they're at.

And we've got to understand that be able to rise to that challenge and bring us our best.

And I thought there was an element of us at our best tonight, but certainly not consistently.

St Helens Star:

MC: When you finally broke them it was courtesy of play from an old school 5-yard rule loose forward – a couple of moments where James Bell prised open that defence. Great play?

PW: He is an excellent player and he's someone who is really thriving in this environment.

He has been a player that's kind of jumped from club to club over the last few years, but once he has come to us, I think he's found somewhere where he enjoys playing his rugby.

He's got a role within the team that's pretty unique. And he uses his skill and his deception so effectively at times.

And I think his combination with Morgan Knowles is a real key one as well because two players with skill and I think they complement each other really well.

St Helens Star:

MC: A strong game from Big Al and Sione Mata'utia really put himself about – especially in the first stint, you have a lot of lighter middles. Is that a challenge when you are playing a big side on a heavy pitch?

PW: It can be, but I like the fact that we have a middle unit that's mobile. I like the fact that we have a middle unit who, if required to, can play long minutes.

I think the way the game is hopefully going is that the rucks are going to speed up. That's the type of game that not only the fans want to watch, but the players want to play.

And I think having mobile players, who can get about the field is crucial in being effective with the way the game’s going.

MC: I'm confused from week-to-week because that was not a quick ruck tonight, so I'm not sure how you guys deal with that in terms of what you're playing to each week?

PW: We've got to understand that it's Round Three, so as much as we're under pressure as coaches to get the teams and get the players to play the game in the right way, the players are under pressure in terms of being disciplined in the way that the games are changing.

There are also the match officials are under pressure as well, and it's very difficult at times to referee a game consistently.

But I think we do need a real focus on this.

The ruck has got to be a priority in terms of keeping the game flowing and keeping the game quick because that's a game that the players want to play, and that's certainly a game that the fans turn up on the terraces and want to watch.

And if they want fans to keep turning up, let’s give them what they want.

St Helens Star:

MC: The match winning try was great offload from Konrad Hurrell, but I loved the way that Lewis Dodd attacked that line and set that up. His kicking was highlighted last week, but those aspects of taking the ball to the line show he’s really getting back to where he was at his very best.

PW: He's got that sharpness back.

And this is a young player who at the age of 20/21 ruptured his Achilles.

I think there was way too much expected of Lewis Dodd in 2023, and obviously the season started brilliantly out in Penrith winning that game, but we were always mindful there that we've got a young lad coming off the back of a serious injury.

You've also got a young lad learning the game in a number 7 jersey and having to learn how to manage your team, control the team.

And that just doesn't happen overnight. But he's physically feeling as good as he's ever done.

He’s got that sharpness back and he's having a big influence on the team in terms of our attacking shapes and being able to bring the likes of Jack and Jonny into the game.

So I'm delighted with where he's at and I'm really proud of the way that he's stuck at it over what's been a challenging 12 months for him.

St Helens Star:

MC: You created a few chances at the end that had they been finished it would have been an easier night?

PW: I think it got to the point at the back end of the game where we were very close to putting the game away and it just didn't quite happen for us. But again, we can learn some lessons from that in how we can be a little bit better as well.

And also you have to pay again, Leigh huge credit there because they had a fair bit of disruption tonight.

Obviously they lost John Asiata early and Tom Briscoe as well during the game as well and they were shuffling things around. So to their credit, the way they stuck at it from their perspective is something that they can hang their hat on.

St Helens Star:

MC: No Waqa Blake tonight has he fall into the St Helens lurgy?

PW: I don't think he's ever had St Helens lurgy before, but he's had it now. He was again, like all the players, saying I can play if you need me to, I am a big believer in having fit and healthy bodies out there.

There are times during the season where players are going to have to do it tough, but the squads relatively healthy at the moment.

I think by playing Waqa ill basically would have knocked him back about three or four days. That’s something I didn't want to do.

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MC: What was the issue with Curtis Sironen going off?

PW: He had a bit of a back spasm, which got to the point where he was feeling at the back end of the first half.

You obviously have half time and things seize up, and it got a bit tighter but he was keen to get out there. But then it just became a bit too much for him to manage.

So again, similar like I said with Waqa - putting healthy bodies out there and being able to do the job is probably the most important thing.

But what I love about Sirro is that he was doing it tough there and he was prepared to stay out.

MC: Last one, it is the St Helens 10k on Sunday - a legacy of the great man Steve Prescott. There will be a few thousand on that run. What message of encouragement do you have fort those tackling North Road on Sunday?

PW: First of all for those running the 10K on Sunday, if you see James Roby out there, give him a helping hand because he's only got one hip.

Obviously through the Steve Prescott Foundation a number of things happened and first and foremost it was around events and raising money for charity, which the Foundation has done a wonderful job of and the St Helens 10K is a great example of that.

But what's also been really positive about the Steve Prescott Foundation is that events like this actually create relationships, forge friendships and it's done that so effectively since the Foundation was set up.

And again, it's a great opportunity on the weekend for the town to come together and if you're running then great, if you're not running, you can certainly be lining the streets cheering those on who are.