James Roby key as unbeaten St Helens go top of the table with win over Salford

There was a time not so long ago when St Helens fans wondered how they would cope without their iconic hooker, Keiron Cunningham, when he retired in 2010. Such was his impact on his hometown club throughout a glittering two-decade career, the Saints christened the move to their new stadium with a statue of him taking pride of place outside.

When he retired, the thankless task of succeeding him fell on the shoulders of James Roby; yet at this rate, there is a fair chance Roby may get his own statue by the time he retires, too. Such was the nature of this performance from St Helens, it would be unfair to simply attribute their fourth consecutive victory to the 33-year-old but how he played a telling role here.

By the end, Roby had combined with stand-off Théo Fages to menacing effect, scoring two tries and producing another lung-busting display to help the Saints move top of the table and continue their unbeaten start to 2019. “That performance adds to his legendary status, and it’s fully deserved,” Roby’s coach, Justin Holbrook, said.

Fages was equally deserving of the plaudits here too, though. The French international was a surprise pick ahead of Danny Richardson in the halves at the start of this season, but he was crucial in helping the Saints establish a 16-0 lead here which, realistically, an injury-hit, out-of-sorts Salford were never likely to overcome.

Fages’ pinpoint kick for Mark Percival helped open the scoring, before the stand-off combined with half-back partner Jonny Lomax to make it 10-0. Roby then took centre-stage, scoring instinctively out of dummy-half and even then, before half-time, it was clear Salford would not be able to threaten a resolute St Helens defence enough to overturn the deficit.

“St Helens were outstanding defensively,” said the Salford coach, Ian Watson. His side still have an impressive record of three wins from five to start the season, but will count the cost of a number of key injuries to forwards here which made their task a near-impossible one. They battled commendably – underlined by Derrell Olpherts’ try after half-time, but that was as good as it got.

After Lomax and Lachlan Coote combined to free winger Regan Grace for St Helens’ fourth try, it was fitting that Fages and Roby had the final say. Fages’ wonderful pass freed Tommy Makinson downfield and though he was felled by two Salford defenders, Roby defied his age to react quickest and scamper over for his second try.

Salford Evalds; Olpherts, Welham, Sa’u, Sio; Lui, Hastings; Mossop, Lussic, Duson, Jones, Turgut, Murray Interchange McCarthy, Nakubuwai, Burke, Tomkins Try Olpherts

St Helens Coote; Makinson, Costello, Percival, Grace; Lomax, Fages; Walmsley, Roby, Thompson, Taia, Peyroux, Knowles. Interchange Lees, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Paulo, Amor. Tries Percival, Lomax, Roby 2, Grace. Goals Coote 3 Referee Ben Thaler Att 4,064

Widnes takeover almost complete

Widnes Vikings have confirmed that a deal to bring the Championship club out of administration has been agreed. The former world champions announced last week that they were going into administration due to mounting financial issues – which resulted in the postponement of their league fixture against Sheffield last Sunday.

Widnes Vikings are set to avoid the threat of liquidation.

Widnes Vikings are set to avoid the threat of liquidation. Photograph: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com/REX/Shutterstock

However, subject to approval from the Rugby Football League, which is expected to be granted on Friday, a consortium headed by the local businessman Chris Price will assume control of the Vikings and ensure the club will avoid the threat of liquidation. “On Thursday, a consortium came together with the administrators and agreed a deal in principle to take the club forward,” the Vikings said in a brief statement.

Widnes also revealed that should RFL approval be granted, the club expect their league fixture against Featherstone this weekend to take place – though per the governing body’s operational rules, Widnes will start that game on -8 points following the 12-point penalty they will incur for entering administration.

In their brief statement issued on Thursday night, Widnes also confirmed that supporters will have a presence in the new consortium after the local community raised over £100,000 to help keep the club alive. “Without their backing, this solution would not have been possible,” they continued. It remains unclear, however, how many of the club’s high-earning players will have to leave the club in a cost-cutting exercise under the new regime.

source: theguardian.com