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BEN & MERRY; Barba masterclass and Percival hat-trick trounces Tigers; RUGBY LEAGUE BETFRED SUPER LEAGUE LAST NIGHT'S ACTION.

Byline: GARETH WALKER Rugby Lge Correspondent

St Helens 46

Castleford 6

BEN BARBA provided a dazzling reminder of his talent as Saints took apart a Tigers team labelled "embarrassing" by coach Daryl Powell.

In five appearances at the end of last season, full-back Barba had shown glimpses of the form that made him the NRL's best player.

By his own admission he had yet to fully find his feet - but this was certainly a step in the right direction. He scored two tries and created four others, including a hat-trick for Mark Percival.

It was more than enough to see off a disappointing Tigers side who have not won away at St Helens since 1992.

Castleford dominated the league campaign last year, but were overwhelmed early on by a Saints team heavily backed to go all the way this season.

"I thought we were pretty embarrassing," said Powell. "I thought it was a shocking performance from us but on the other side of the coin Saints were very good.

"There's a bit of soul searching to be done. It was a rude awakening, a kick up the backside or whatever you want to call it."

Saints raced into a 10-0 lead with two superb tries inside the first seven minutes. Attacking from their own quarter, Jonny Lomax released Percival from deep and Barba (right) supported to score.

In the next set the outstanding James Roby was involved twice, with Jon Wilkin and Barba also prominent before Zeb Taia finished another excellent move.

Powell responded by substituting James Green less than eight minutes into his debut, but by half-time the Tigers were 22-0 down.

Prop Alex Walmsley, celebrating a new fouryear deal, provided a sublime assist for the next try, batting the ball back for Lomax to touch down.

Then Barba's excellent delayed pass put Percival over for a fourth Saints try of the half. The pair repeated the trick for the opening score of the second half to completely kill off any notion of an unlikely Tigers comeback.

The visitors eventually found a response after Kyle Amor was sin-binned, with Green's offload sending Paul McShane over.

But Barba grabbed a second and sent Percival in for his treble, with Taia touching down again in between.

Saints coach Justin Holbrook said: "It's only round one but I'm rapt with that against quality opposition."

CAPTION(S):

MAKE THE RIGHT NOISES Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and his team-mates are delighted with a fine victory

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 3, 2018
Words:409
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