The Champions were first up as the 2021 Super League season got underway at Emerald Headingley, the opposition were a Salford Red Devils under the management of ex-Saints assistant coach Richard Marshall as a new era began.
Morgan Knowles is ruled out until at least round four but did welcome back Mark Percival. Salford were without Joe Burgess, out with an ankle injury but had former NRL superstar loose forward Elijah Taylor making his debut.
Saints were massive odds-on favourites with the bookies and you could get a fourteen point start for Salford on the coupon, but after four months (119 days) of off-season, and fundamental coaching changes to the Salford side, it could have been a bit of a lottery.
Krisnan Inu spilled the ball from a poor Danny Addy pass inside his own twenty inside the first minute and on the fifth tackle Theo Fages kicked to the corner and found the hands of Tommy Makinson who managed to dab the ball down before falling into touch. Makinson kicked the goal line conversion for the start that Saints fans have been dreaming about through a long winter.
Inu went close to making amends for the Red Devils on nine, and five minutes later Saints had a try ruled out for a forward pass from Jonny Lomax.
Dan Sarginson knocked-on under his own sticks as he slid to take a difficult grubber and on the last tackle Lomax dipped the shoulder and went over the line to ground, but the video referee ruled a double-movement and denied the scrum-half his try.
Saints added a Makinson penalty on twenty-eight after Salford were adjudged offside.
Another mistake cost Salford a second try after Kallum Watkins lost the ball to a Nathan Percival strip, and Saints picked the ball up and moved it out to Regan Grace who dove over in the corner. The decision was sent upstairs to check for a two-man strip but the video referee was happy. Makinson pulled his conversion wide of the posts, Saints with a 12-0 lead with four minutes to oranges.
A Jack Welsby one-pointer on the final hooter took the lead out to three scores, Salford still in the game but only just.
Ten seconds after the restart Pauli Pauli carried the ball into Agnatius Paasi, the Saints debutant helped from the field for a head check.
On fifty-four Salford got their first points of the season as Ken Sio took a looping Tui Lolohea pass in acres of space to cross in the right corner. Inu kicked brilliantly from the touchline for 6-13.
Joel Thompson was held up over the line on the hour mark and on the last tackle a Theo Fages pinpoint kick was taken by Mark Percival in a crowd of Salford tacklers with the centre dropping over the line for a four pointer. Makinson kicked the extra two with confidence and there was a sense that the Salford comeback was short-lived.
Inu was left looking for the ground to swallow him up on seventy-one when he spilled a Fages kick towards his own line giving Kevin Naiqama a simple pick-up and walk over try. Makinson was unable to add the extra two from wide but the first victory for the champions was on the board.
With five left of the clock Alex Walmsley bulldozed his way over the line from ten metres, swatting away the Salford defenders to drop to the ground. Makinson kicked his fourth goal of the night for 29-6.
A comfortable win for Saints in a game which wasn’t without its scares from a Salford side which looks to be built upon strong defence. It was the errors which cost the Red Devils in the end, and they were errors which you can’t present to a side like Saints and expect them to go unpunished.
St Helens: Welsby (DG), Makinson (T, 4G), Naiqama (T), Percival (T), Grace (T), Fages, Lomax, Walmsley (T), Roby, Lees, Thompson, Bentley, Mata’utia. Subs: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Paasi, Smith.
Salford Red Devils: Sarginson, Sio (T), Watkins, Kear, Inu (G), Lolohea, Brown, Mossop, Addy, Ikahihifo, Livett, Lannon, Taylor. Subs: Pauli, Ormondroyd, Wells, Patton.
Referee: Liam Moore.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 8-0, 12-0, 13-0 : HT : 13-4, 13-6, 17-6, 19-6, 23-6, 27-6, 29-6 : FT.