St Helens face an anxious wait following injury to Ben Barba
By Press Association Sport
Last Updated: 26/04/18 11:33pm
St Helens face an anxious wait to discover the extent of an injury sustained by talismanic full-back Ben Barba in their 60-10 victory over Salford on Thursday night.
The Australian scored a first Betfred Super League hat-trick, taking him clear at the top of the chart with 15 tries in 13 matches, but he fell awkwardly in a tackle eight minutes from the end.
Barba was seen in clear discomfort before receiving medical help and, after being carried off in a neck brace, he was taken to hospital immediately after the game.
With England prop Alex Walmsley currently sidelined with a fractured bone in his neck, the potential loss of Barba could be another major blow to the leaders.
"I'm not 100 per cent sure but hopefully it's just a precaution, with the doctors playing on the safe side," St Helens coach Justin Holbrook said.
"Six weeks ago Alex Walmsley copped a knock and actually stood up and walked off so I think the docs might be worried because of that.
"It looked like he fell awkwardly and at first I thought it was his collar-bone but the doctor was pressing on his neck and he was trying to get the feeling back."
Barba, who joined Saints towards the end of last season, is averaging a try a game for his club and he underlined his status as front-runner for the Man of Steel award with another superlative display at the AJ Bell Stadium before picking up his injury.
"It was a brilliant performance," added Holbrook. "He's really enjoying playing and he's a leader in our team. I can't single Benny out after a performance like that but he's been great from the start.
"He played a couple of games last year unfit and in pre-season he came back a couple of weeks earlier than anyone else. He's been fantastic for us and he was again tonight."
The only other blemish for Saints, who have scored 126 points in their last two games, was the dismissal of substitute forward Matty Lees for a swinging arm on Salford full-back Niall Evalds.
"I thought it was harsh," Holbrook said. "It was only 20 centimetres off the ground and I thought he hit the shoulder first.
"I couldn't be happier with how the players responded. No-one wanted to take it as an excuse, they saw it as a bit of an extra challenge."
Salford had gone into the game on the back of successive wins over Huddersfield and Wakefield and coach Ian Watson was bitterly disappointed by their performance.
"It was a complete contrast on the back of our two previous games," Watson said. "To turn that performance in, it was like a different team.
"I can't put my finger on it. Our middles have been good all season but today Saints were on a different level.
"I'm confident we'll bounce back but that hurts. We were happy to sit there and let them run at us. We weren't ruthless in our defence and that's probably the first time I can say that this year."