SAINTS' win at London on Sunday moved Saints back to top spot half way through the 2024 Super League campaign. Here are some key talking points from the Set of Six.

1. Support play.

Nobody will be getting carried away by Saints’ 52-6 thrashing of London Broncos. After all it was league leaders against the basement side, full time professionals against the plucky part-timers.

That Saints avoided some of the potential pitfalls when going into a game like this was credit to their willingness to be patient and not try and put the cart before the horse, which eventually told on the scoreboard.

One particularly pleasing element was the controlled offload game and close quarter support play.

It gradually feels like part of the evolution of the Saints attacking game from the basic style they adopted from 2020 – including the last three of their title winning seasons.

When you have players who can play at the line like James Bell, or indeed backrowers with the strong carry of Sione Mata’utia or Curtis Sironen, who can punch their way through, getting bodies in play and on their shoulders will always find joy.

And that they did on Sunday with four of their nine tries coming from that style of play, including three from Daryl Clark.

2. Moses Mbye in the halves.

Although no-one will have wished for Jonny Lomax to be sidelined for a month with a broken hand, it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

In terms of timing, so soon after the announced end of season departure of Lewis Dodd, it has allowed Moses Mbye to effectively audition for the full time number seven role from next year.

Mbye was excellent on Sunday creating the first three tries with the full set of tools from his armoury before scoring the fourth himself.

Whether it was the pin-point kick for Waqa Blake’s first, his precision pass that cut out two players for the wingman’s second or his prising the initial opening for Dodd’s third we had already seen what was in his locker long before he dummied, darted and stretched for his own try.

Mbye has shown he is more than a makeshift half back – and should Saints opt to go down this route it could dovetail nicely with the development of the young talent coming through in the halves with George Whitby set to be elevated to the top squad and Harry Robertson handed a squad number last week.

And of course, any savings from that could be directed to add some strike to the three-quarter line where Tommy Makinson will leave big boots to fill and that’s before we know what is happening with Konrad Hurrell and Waqa Blake.

(Image: Bernard Platt)

3. Jonny Vaughan champing at the bit.

On the subject of three-quarters it was interesting watching young Jonny Vaughan in warm up ahead of Sunday’s game.

Rarely have you seen a more enthusiastic non-playing member of the 21-man squad in the pre-match drill.

Such is Vaughan’s competitive nature he made sure he was first to race past the half way line in the final sprint off before heading down the tunnel ahead of the game.

He has a deep-engrained competitiveness – and the first time we at the Star reported on Vaughan was as an eight-year-old in 2013 when he saw off all-comers at under 12s level to be crowned double world kickboxing champion after remarkably starting the sport at the age of three.

A combination of his natural growth and training in a full time environment has seen the former England Academy captain develop physically – and he has been champing at the bit since the start of the year.

There were hopes he would become just the second of that crop of juniors to be handed a debut by coach Paul Wellens.

Last week I asked when Vaughan will get that shot and he replied: “Like all the players I tell them to be patient because they are trying to get into a very good team.

"That is the challenge when you are a young player but as a club we have always given young players opportunities and have been hugely successful with it, but at the same time those opportunities have got to be earned.

"I am really pleased with the standard of that young group of players at training – they just need to keep delivering that.

"Whether it be this week, next or the week after that I can’t make any promises but there will be opportunities at some point.”

So hopefully not long now before that Heritage Number of 1288 is handed out.


4. Noah Stephens growing into role.

Of course, Noah Stephens was the last player to receive his Heritage number – a debut handed out to the 19-year-old in adversity given the way injuries have depleted the Saints pack.

There is no doubt the introduction of the former Saints Academy product and Pilkington Recs junior gave the rest of his teammates a bit of a lift on debut at Castleford.

Four games in and he now growing with every minute, a player who fearlessly runs his weight and following in the footsteps of 20-year-old George Delaney, who is now a remarkable 37 games into his fledgling first team career.

Losing middles like Alex Walmsley, Morgan Knowles and Jake Wingfield at a time when Agnatius Paasi was still on his journey to full fitness could have been a devastating blow, but Stephens’ progress is definitely the silver lining of that dark cloud.

And he is certainly sticking his hand up to keep that spot when eventually more bodies return to the pack.


5. London's place in Super League.

More than 1,200 Saints fans made the trip to London – and they sang their hearts out throughout and made it an occasion to remember even if the scoreline was lop-sided.

Saints have fond memories of playing at the Twickenham Stoop – after all it was here where Daniel Anderson’s Grand Slam winning season of 2006 commenced – and it was like rolling back the years.

I don’t there was anyone there on Sunday who did not enjoy the day and the feelgood atmosphere, especially as it was showcasing the best of rugby league in the shadow of 15-man code’s Twickenham HQ.

London earned their promotion last year against all the odds, but were effectively relegated under the IMG points grading before a ball had been kicked, which is a travesty.

Then if you think back, the last time London were in the top-flight in 2019 they were only relegated on points difference with Hull KR just above them, you can’t help but curse their misfortune but admire their resilience in bouncing back.

London don’t deserve a place simply because it is a good day out – but surely having a top-flight side in the nation’s capital with a huge potential catchment area for players has to be plus.

There needs to be a beacon for the community game down south to gravitate towards.

It may look superficial to some, but having an elite competition that goes beyond that strip across the M62 has to give the game a better look and appeal to sponsors and media outlets.

We need to grow our game – and it is unfathomable for the top-flight status of London not to feature in those plans.


6. View from Super League's half way point.

14 games in and past the halfway mark – and it seems like a strange old season with Saints on top despite their travails with injuries and a couple of performance howlers in league and cup.

Although Saints have strung together some wins, with the highlight of the year so far being the Good Friday win over Wigan, the bad loss in the Challenge Cup and heavy defeat at Hull KR did linger for a while. Four wins in a row have put them just ahead of Wigan on points difference, but the reigning champions do have a game in hand.

Saints are progressing nicely but plenty can still change with a couple of bad results especially as they still have to play Wigan and Warrington twice, with Sunday’s tricky trip to Salford the first of a couple more encounters with the Red Devils.

Saints will continue to have their backs to the wall when it comes to injuries – but this run of five games that features trips to Salford, Wigan and a suddenly resurgent Leigh and home game with Warrington will be test of their mettle.

But for the time being they are in a good place to attack the second half of the season.