St Helens started their reign as Super League Champions against the team they conquered in last years Grand Final, Salford Red Devils, who travelled to the Totally Wicked Stadium in a story of repeat or revenge.
Kristian Woolf’s first game in charge was against the much changed Red Devils, who were now without Jackson Hastings, Jake Bibby and Josh Jones, however, new signings Kevin Brown, Dan Sarginson, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Pauli Pauli and Luke Yates were more than ready to step up for Ian Watson.
It was the visitors who took the early lead as Tui Lolohea converted a penalty in front of the posts, after James Bentley was deemed to play the ball incorrectly.
This was the only chance Salford would have to put points on the board as Saints threatened the Red Devils line with three attackings sets on the bounce.
Jonny Lomax drew in both Kris Welham and Lolohea to allow Zeb Taia the space to walk over the line to score. Coote converted to make it 6-2 after 14 minutes.
The champions stretched further ahead as the pressure tolled once more and Alex Walmsley crashed over with four Salford players on his back.
Salford did manage to cross the line on the half-hour mark but Rhys Williams unfortunately stepped in touch before dotting the ball down.
The Red Devils just couldn’t contain the relentless attack from Saints and Theo Fages dummied and stepped back inside, to pick up Saints third try of the game.
HALF-TIME: St Helens 18-2 Salford Red Devils
Salford came back out for the second-half on the front foot and it seemed to be a perfect start for the visitors.
A fifth tackle kick from Kris Welham was being ushered out by Lachlan Coote but Ken Sio dotted the ball down before crossing the dead-ball line. However, after being referred to James Childs, the score was chalked off as Sio’s right boot brushed the touchline.
Lachlan Coote nearly picked up a try but a huge tackle from Luke Yates stopped the full-back and forcing him off injured.
After a horrendous error from Pauli Pauli on his goal-line, Saints returned the goal-line drop out straight back for more points.
The ball was spread out to Kevin Naiqama who dove over on the right edge of the field, with Coote off injured, Percival converted from wide out.
Salford bounced back and finally managed to pick up their first try of 2020. After back-to-back penalties put the Red Devils in great field position.
Kevin Brown and Lolohea linked up and released Sio down the edge and the winger scored with a dramatic dive. Lolohea converted to cut the deficit to 16.
The thought of a comeback was swiftly eradicated, as Lomax once again showed his class after an inch-perfect pass from the half-back landed in the arms of Kevin Naiqama and the Fijian duly finished in the corner.
With 20 minutes of the game still to go, there was the threat of Saints running riot and the next try scored did come from the home side.
A mistake from Lolohea put Saints in great field position and Jack Welsby, now playing full-back, collected Fages inside ball and scored untouched.
Welsby then picked up his second just a few minutes later as he gathered his own kick through to score. Percival converted once more to make it 42-8 with 10 minutes remaining.
Saints honed in on 50 as Alex Walmsley spotted a huge gap in the Salford line and charged over for a 40-point lead.
Unfortunately for Salford, they are seriously missing Jackson Hastings, where as St Helens look even tougher to beat this season.
FULL-TIME: St Helens 48-8 Salford Red Devils
MAN OF THE MATCH: Jonny Lomax
What more can Jonny Lomax do, he pulled the strings for the home-side tonight with his kicking, passing and running game. He looks more mature in his decision making and will make Saints an even bigger threat in 2020.
Coote, Welsby, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Bentley, Thompson, Taia, Peyroux, McCarthy-Scarsbrook.
Interchanges: Lees, Ashworth, Paulo, Smith.
Tries: Taia, Walmsley (2), Fages, Naiqama (2), Welsby (2)
Goals: Coote (3/3), Percival (5/5)
SALFORD RED DEVILS:
Evalds, Sio, Welham, Sarginson, Williams, Lolohea, Brown, Mossop, Lussick, Dudson, Greenwood, McCarthy, Burke.
Interchanges: Pauli, Ikahihifo, Yates, Johnson.
Goals: Lolohea (2/2)
Referee: L. Moore
Touch Judges: J. Smith, C. Sharrad
Video Referee: J. Child
Image: @Betfred (twitter)