SAINTS finally got the Stobart Stadium ‘hoodoo’ off their backs as they comfortably beat Bradford Bulls.
Paul Wellens and Jamie Foster led the way with two tries apiece as Royce Simmons’ men put together a good performance to win 28-16.
Saints led 16-6 at half time after they weathered an early Bulls storm.
Marc Herbert’s peach of a kick put Shaun Ainscough in before Jamie Foster pulled one back.
Paul Wellens then stretched the lead and when Paul Sykes saw yellow he added another.
In the second half, Foster added his second and moments later Jonny Lomax zipped through a gap to feed Chris Flannery for his fourth of the season.
Patrick Ah Van brought the Bulls back into it on the back of a very forward pass, but Foster’s accurate boot added a penalty late on to quell any hope of a comeback.
Saints had Sia Soliola and Michael Shenton sinbinned in the final stages and although Ainscough grabbed his second, late on the homesters were never in danger.
Pre match, Saints welcomed back Sia Soliola and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook to the line-up with Paul Clough missing out for a couple of weeks with a neck problem.
Josh Perry recovered from his knock last week whilst Jon Wilkin – although in the 19 – missed out.
Mick Potter retained a strong looking line up, but freshened up his team by moving Paul Sykes to full back and having Shad Royston in the centres.
Saints got underway with a strong set and immediately pinned the Bulls back on their line. They then put in another good set but Jonny Lomax’ kick on the last was just tipped forward as Michael Shenton patrolled the wing.
But – and against the run of play – Bradford scored first – and it was a piece of genius from Marc Herbert to open up the defence. His chip from inside his own half found Shaun Ainscough running at pace – and the former Wiganer collectied the bouncing ball and outpaced Jamie Foster.
Patrick Ah Van with the conversion.
Saints had to weather Bradford’s next six but then got down the field with some fine handling. Two strong drives had them close but Roby was held up over the line.
On 17 minutes though, Saints got the try their possession deserved – even though it was slightly fortuitous. Strong passing and running got them within range and then Lomax’ pass to Foster – although forward – was collected and put down.
Foster pulling his conversion left of the posts.
It was the lift Saints – and their fans – needed as two sets later Paul Wellens showed bags of strength to get over under pressure.
Foster adding the extras from a tough angle.
As good as Saints were in attack – moving the ball with speed and skill – they were in defence as gaps found in the middle by a quick Bulls’ pack were closed with some excellent scrambling defence.
But Saints always looked like they would get over again and they did.
With five minutes to go Paul Sykes was sinbinned for dissent and with space on the wings Wellens bagged his second.
Foster tagging on the extras.
Half Time: Saints 16 Bradford 6
Saints forced a drop out early in the second half and made the pressure pay – moving the ball left and into the grateful hands of Jamie Foster.
And Sykes returned to the pitch moments later only to see Jonny Lomax zip through a massive hole and feed Chris Flannery.
Foster tagging on the two.
Saints continued to dominate but it was Ah Van who grabbed one for the Bulls with 19 minutes left – profiting from the most forward pass you’ll ever see outside American Football.
Sia Soliola was then sinbinned for lying on but Saints soon stretched their lead once more as Foster added a penalty from distance.
Michael Shenton joined Sia in the bin for ‘giving a facial’ and with him off the field Ainscough added his second.
Ah Van making it 28-16.
But that try came in the final two minutes and Saints had already done more than enough to clinch a vital victory and go second in the table.
Tries: Foster (2), Wellens (2), Flannery
Goals: Foster (4 from 6)
Tries: Ainscough (2), Ah Van
Goals: Ah Van (2 from 3)
REF: Richard Silverwood
1. Paul Wellens; 2. Ade Gardner, 3. Michael Shenton, 5. Francis Meli, 22. Jamie Foster; 25. Lee Gaskell. 20. Jonny Lomax; 10. James Graham, 9. James Roby, 8. Josh Perry, 4. Sia Soliola, 13. Chris Flannery, 11. Tony Puletua.
Subs: 15. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 17. Gary Wheeler, 18. Matty Ashurst, 21. Shaun Magennis.
3. Paul Sykes; 18. Shaun Ainscough, 1. Michael Platt, 25. Shad Royston, 5. Patrick Ah Van; 6. Brett Kearney, 7. Marc Herbert; 10. Andy Lynch, 14. Matt Diskin, 15. Bryn Hargreaves, 11. Olivier Elima, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Jamie Langley.
Subs: 8. Nick Scruton, 9. Heath L’Estrange, 16. Craig Kopczak, 23. Tom Olbison.