Australian second-row playing better than ever as part of champions’ brilliant start to the new season after learning new tricks to lead Man of Steel running
MAN of Steel frontrunner Sione Mata’utia has even shocked himself with how good he has been this season.
The Aussie second-row hopes to help champions St Helens make it five wins from five against Warrington Wolves tonight.
Red-hot Mata’utia, 25, has been tearing up teams with his fierce carries, try-scoring exploits and man-of-the-match displays in his second season with the club since moving from the NRL.
He said: “It’s been good fun. I’ve actually surprised myself.
“I just hope I can keep it up.
“I’m going pretty well at the moment and I’ll be putting my best foot forward to do that. It’s good to see some of the results of our pre-season work.
“But we know Warrington will be tougher than our last two games so we have to bring our A game.”
Mata’utia scored two tries in last week’s emphatic win at Hull KR but got the biggest celebrations for his brilliant cut-out pass that sent England winger Tommy Makinson in at the corner.
It is not the sort of involvement you expect from the ex-Newcastle Knights second-row although, of course, he did start out his career as a centre/full-back.
“It was one of those plays we practice throughout the week,” explained the former Kangaroos international.
“We didn’t really do it too well during last week or the week before so we kept it in the bag for a bit.
“But then Jonny Lomax or Jack Welsby called it and, knowing how KR defend, they leave a man off so you sort of close your eyes, shoot and hope!
“Luckily, Tommy managed to catch it on point which is good.
“I don’t usually set them up. It’s something that I’ve tried adding to my game and it felt pretty good.”
Mata’utia – who tops the Man of Steel leaderboard after four rounds – helped Saints win the Grand Final last October.
Given their brilliant start to 2022, whether they average 32 points per game, conceding barely six, it would be no surprise if they made it four titles in a row.
Warrington, of course, will hope to dent that start tonight and there will be a familiar face in their ranks.
His older brother Peter has joined them from Castleford Tigers this term and is set to feature at centre as Wolves look to bounce back from last week’s disappointing home loss to Catalans Dragons.
“Obviously, I know his game well,” said Mata’utia.
“He’ll add a bit of punch and aggression while he plays off the cuff as well.
“He’s hard to defend and he’s definitely going to add something to their side this year.
“He’s hard to handle. And they’ve already got a good back five.”
Given the sustained quality of their performances again in 2022, Saints coach Kristian Woolf has been asked this week about how he thinks his own side would compete in the NRL given the chance.
He responded how he felt they’d be a play-offs finals team and it is hard to argue.
Photo: Steve Flynn)
But Mata’utia says there is still room for improvement.
“Our second half starts haven’t been our best,” he said.
“We need to work on that. We’re a team that prides ourselves on our fast starts and we’ve been caught sleeping a bit.
“Defending is what we always pride ourselves on, that’s how we set our marker.
“We want to play tough and work hard for each other and adapt to different scenarios but also try some new things like kicking early.
“We’re looking forward to Friday.”