SAINTS’ Stobart Stadium hoodoo continued as they slumped to a 27-16 defeat to a resurgent Harlequins RL.
Royce Simmons’ men had no answer to their opponent’s exciting attacking play as they conceded 20 points in the opening 40 minutes.
Luke Dorn, Karl Pryce and Tony Clubb all crossed in a half that could have been a lot worse for the home side.
In the second, Francis Meli got Saints on the board before James Graham ploughed over to get his charges right back in it.
But Nick Kouparitsas intercepted almost immediately to restore Quins advantage – and that finished off Saints’ hopes and leaves them with plenty to think about as the season progresses.
Team news saw Josh Perry making his much awaited debut for the Saints, whilst Lee Gaskell came in for the injured Leon Pryce.
Simmons also moved Paul Clough into the second row and called up Shaun Magennis to the substitutes’ bench.
Rob Powell had to make a couple of changes to his side with Olsi Krasniqi, who featured against Catalans Dragons in the Millennium Magic weekend, and Joe Mellor coming in for Jamie O’Callaghan and David Howell.
Quins got the game underway and had Saints on the back foot when an innocuous looking kick found Francis Meli trapped in goal.
It was all the pressure they needed as after one solid drive Luke Gale fed Luke Dorn who made no mistake. Gale converting.
And less than two minutes later, Quins were in again – this time forcing the ball on the last tackle and finding Karl Pryce. Gale adding the extras from out wide.
Saints grabbed a drop out of their own after 14 minutes; coming off the back of a fantastic kick and chase. And after a great attacking set, they won another six tackles courtesy of Eastmond’s chip which troubled Mark Calderwood.
From there, the ball came left and with Meli streaking into the corner, he just put a toenail in touch; unlucky for the big man who has a phenomenal scoring rate for his club.
Quins then hit Saints again – and with a fair about of luck too. They broke forward and although the tackle seemed to be completed the referee allowed play to continue and Tony Clubb profited.
Gale making it 18-0 to the Quins – and no more than they deserved.
Saints were continuously finding handling difficult as they attacked and it was no surprise when the now buoyant Quins almost were in again.
As the half ticked doen, Saints should have been within 12 as Lee Gaskell was called for a forward pass that never was but went in 20-0 down at the break following Gale’s penalty on 38 minutes.
Half time: Saints 0 Harlequins 20
Saints began the second half on the front foot, but Eastmond’s kick came to nothing.
But on 49 minutes they finally got over the line.
Paul Wellens unlocked the defence with a strong run was then hauled down, but Saints spun the ball wide and Meli got over in the corner. Eastmond unlucky with the conversion attempt.
And six minutes later Graham bulldozed over to put Saints right back in it. Eastmond converting.
But seconds after the re-start Nick Kouparitsas intercepted and swung the game right back in the visitor’s favour – Gale tagging on the extras.
Saints toiled – as so often has been the story this season – to get into the Quins’ 20, but they couldn’t find a piece of quality to unlock the defence.
And in the end it was relatively simple for Quins to hold out for their first win over the Saints since 2007; Luke Gale adding a drop goal as the clock ticked down.
James Roby with a late consolation.
Tries: Meli, Graham, Roby
Goals: Eastmond (1 from 2), Foster (1 from 1)
Tries: Dorn, Pryce, Clubb, Kouparitsas
Goals: Gale (5 from 5)
Quins RL: 6
REF: Gareth Hewer
1. Paul Wellens; 2. Ade Gardner, 3. Michael Shenton, 20. Jonny Lomax, 5. Francis Meli; 6. 25. Lee Gaskell, 7. Kyle Eastmond; 10. James Graham, 9. James Roby, 8. Josh Perry, 13. Chris Flannery, 16. Paul Clough, 11. Tony Puletua.
Subs: 14. Scott Moore, 19. Andrew Dixon, 21. Shaun Magennis, 22. Jamie Foster.
1. Luke Dorn; 23. Mark Calderwood, 3. Tony Clubb, 31. Karl Pryce, 5. Chris Melling; 6. Luke Gale, 7. Chad Randall; 17. Danny Ward, 9. Andy Ellis, 10. Oliver Wilkes, 16. Mike Burnett, 13. Rob Purdham, 12. Chris Bailey.
Subs: 8. Karl Temata, 11. Nick Kouparitsas, 15. Luke Ambler, 32. Joe Mellor.