The real deal may be a couple of weeks ahead but if the Semi Final between Saints and Warrington is half as good as the one on Saturday then we could be in for a classic.
All the talk of a dead rubber was extinguished early in the first half when three players were sinbinned at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
The Wolves fired ahead, albeit briefly, as a result – before Saints produced some breathtaking stuff to win 34-14.
Justin Holbrook was quick to point out that Warrington were missing players in the second half – and that they therefore lacked strike.
But there’s no doubting his side were top notch throughout and put in a marker performance as the big games approach.
Saints were ahead as early as the fifth minute through Danny Richardson’s boot.
He knocked over a penalty after he had been hit late by Ben Westwood.
Matty Lees then saw yellow for what looked like accidental knees on Tyrone Roberts as he cleaned up a tackle.
The incident sparked an all in melee that eventually referee Chris Kendall got control of – dispatching Mark Percival and Ryan Atkins to the bin.
A man up, Warrington had two forays into the Saints’ 20 that brought out the best in their opponents.
Jonny Lomax produced a wonder tackle on Ben Murdoch-Masila to stop a certain try and then Regan Grace repeated the act on Josh Charnley.
But it was third time lucky on their next attack as Kevin Brown ghosted through a gap to hand the hosts the lead.
Saints hit back as the half came to a close.
Firstly, Luke Douglas twisted over from close range for his third of the season and then Jack Ashworth sparked a superb Grace try.
The young forward broke down the middle of the field but couldn’t find a teammate on either side of him in space.
Saints had numbers though and Ben Barba drifted over to the left hand side to link with Percival who duly put Grace over in the corner.
A six point advantage at half time very nearly became ten within seconds of the second half as Danny Richardson darted through a gap and two would be tacklers.
The move came from well within his own 40 metre area but Charnley chased him down and put him in touch.
Saints then weathered a number of Warrington sets on their line before turning defence into attack by cutting upfield and scoring.
And it was lovely too, Barba and Fages moving the ball left for Percival to move back inside and offload to Jonny Lomax.
From the restart it got even better as Richardson hit Ryan Morgan on a superb line from inside his own 40 – and backed his centre up all the way to go under the sticks.
Barba was next on the sheet – taking Lomax’ sweet inside pass on the last to spin and twist his way past the defence.
Toby King halted the visitor’s run as he picked up a loose ball to go 50 metres but Barba restored the advantage after taking Douglas’ pass.
A real twinkle toed effort for his 29th of the year.
Saints were home and done at this point but the Wolves didn’t give up and Bryson Goodwin produced a cool finish in the corner at the end to leave all four stands clapping.
But the damage had been done and Saints went home happy.
Justin Holbrook was happy Saints played well in their 34-14 win over Warrington but doesn’t want to get too carried away.
His side ran in six tries against their Semi Final opponents at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
“I have to admit it has been a really awkward week,” he said. “It’s hard when you know you’re playing a side that you’re facing in two weeks time. It was important that we played well and we did that, but I don’t think it mattered who won or lost today for the game in a couple of weeks.
“We have played well all year and wanted to continue that. We have put ourselves in a good position and didn’t want to let ourselves down today. We scored some nice tries and I am really happy with the performance.”
He continued: “Benny (Barba) showed what he can do today. I have defended him for the last six to eight weeks with good reason. He’s had niggling injuries he’s had to get over and now he is over them.
“Jonny Lomax was brilliant too but I also realise that their six and seven didn’t play in the second half. It was great from our end – but we had our strike on the field and they didn’t.
“I am happy we played well but I’m keeping it in context.”
Holbrook also praised the young guns after the performance.
“Matty Lees, Jack Ashworth and James Bentley played big minutes. Today was a good opportunity to leave them out more than usual. It was great for them and their development.
“It was good to see Dom Peyroux get back too whilst Ryan Morgan was great.
“We still have Roby, Amor and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook to come back in too and it will be good to get them back.”
Tries: Brown, King, Goodwin
Goals: Patton (2 from 3)
Tries: Douglas, Grace, Lomax, Richardson, Barba (2),
Goals: Richardson (5 from 7)
REF: Chris Kendall
23. Ben Barba; 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 19. Regan Grace; 1. Jonny Lomax, 18. Danny Richardson; 20. Matty Lees, 15. Morgan Knowles, 16. Luke Thompson, 11. Zeb Taia, 24. James Bentley, 12. Jon Wilkin.
Subs: 6. Theo Fages, 14. Luke Douglas, 17. Dom Peyroux, 21. Jack Ashworth.
1. Stefan Ratchford; 3. Bryson Goodwin, 18. Toby King, 4. Ryan Atkins, 27. Josh Charnley; 6. Kevin Brown, 7. Tyrone Roberts; 8. Chris Hill, 15. Declan Patton, 10. Mike Cooper, 13. Ben Murdoch-Masila, 30. Bodene Thompson, 34. Ben Westwood.
Subs: 17. Joe Philbin, 19. George King, 20. Harvey Livett, 22. Morgan Smith.
Saints close out their Betfred Super League Super 8s programme at home to Castleford this Friday September 28 (7:45pm).
Tickets are on sale from the Ticket Office, by calling 01744 455 052 or online here.