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Time to thank the fans and put on a show.

Byline: IAN LAYBOURN Press Association

ST HELENS coach Kristian Woolf is excited at the prospect of taking on a Catalans Dragons side riding the crest of a wave as he eyes a takeover of their top spot.

It is second against first in this afternoon's Betfred Super League clash at the Totally Wicked Stadium, as the champions aim to become only the second team to defeat the Dragons, whose 12-match winning run includes a 20-16 success against

Woolf 's men in Perpignan in May.

It is the first of two meetings with Steve McNamara's high-fliers and the champions may need to win both if they are to win back the League Leaders' Shield they relinquished to Wigan in 2020 and go into the play-offs in pole position.

"You always want to aim for first," Woolf said. "The League Leaders is a great reward for the team that's been the most consistent through the season and that's something you can hang your hat on.

"It's a great challenge for us. I was really happy with how we came out of the disruption against Hull.

"We go up against a team that's going to be a slightly bigger challenge. They're obviously travelling really well so it makes for a really good contest for us. They're where we want to be.

"We're lucky from the point of view we've got two Catalans games, we've got Wigan, we've got Warrington, we've got Leeds, all those teams that are right in the mix for the top six.

"When you do come into finals, you want to do so on the back of playing some really good games. You learn to be better at those big games and you learn to play at a really high intensity week to week.

"I really like the look of what we've got coming up.

"I think it prepares us really well for the back end of the year."

After having two recent fixtures postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak at the club, Saints can expect a belated hero's return for their first home game since their Challenge Cup triumph at Wembley three weeks ago.

"It's our first opportunity to come back in front of our fans and thank them for their support and put on a bit of a show against the top team in the competition," Woolf said.

Catalans coach McNamara, who has been named Betfred Super League coach of the month for July, has brushed aside the difficulties created by his team's hectic schedule which sees them play their third game in 10 days, two of them in England. They did not arrive back in France until the early hours of Tuesday morning following Monday night's match at Hull KR and are now preparing for a 12th cross-Channel flight since late March.

"It is what it is so we just get on with it," McNamara said. "We won't be doing much training like many teams this week I don't think.

"Playing Thursday and then Monday, there will be some bashed-up boys and bashed-up teams.

"We will be ready by the time we get to the kick-off on Saturday."

CAPTION(S):

St Helens head coach Kristian Woolf with the Challenge Cup at Wembley last month

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Title Annotation:News; Teasers
Author:IAN LAYBOURN Press Association
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 7, 2021
Words:535
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