DESPITE playing headlong into the customary Rovers gale in the first half, the Academy could and should have been out of sight by the break, writes Team Manager Graham Henthorne.
With debutant centre Mark Percival terrorising the opposition with his pace out wide the Saints looked dangerous every time they touched the ball.
The Saints were first on the scoreboard forcing the home side into a restart under the posts with Danny Yates’ deft grubber. When Greg Wilde was stopped short quick hands saw winger Tom Tunstall in at the left corner.
Percival’s curling run around and then inside the defensive line put the centre clear with only the full back ahead of him but a lack of any support on his inside saw the chance go begging.
As is usually the case the home side went straight down the other end where some poor tackling allowed Rovers big left centre to score the first of his brace.
There then followed a twenty minute period where the Academy were in total control but couldn’t cross the whitewash.
Tom Tunstall was tackled into touch, Percival was put clear by Dom Speakman’s pass only to brought back for a forward pass and Connor Dwyer wasted a gilt edged chance, the line yawning in front of him, by passing back inside to Danny Yates’ who knocked on.
Finally the pressure tolled as the Speakman-Percival combination worked it’s magic again for the centre to finally open his account in the Red Vee.
On the next set the Saints marched downfield with Danny Yates launching a huge bomb on the last. The Rovers full back spilled the ball giving the Saints six tackles in the home 20. On the last Joe Bate charged on to Lewis Foster bullet pass to score under the sticks.
Adam Barber’s conversion gave the Saints a ten point lead but yet another knock on early in the tackle count gave Rovers the chance to close the gap and from the scrum the right centre went around some statuesque Saints defence to the corner.
Coach Derek Traynor emphasised the positives at half time and the message seemed to have hit home as an aggressive defensive set forced Rovers to kick from their own 30. Joe Bate was stopped inches short but from the play the ball Danny Yates dummied to the outside and strolled in.
However, that was almost as good as it got as the wind at their backs was forgotten and the game plan thrown out of the window.
Missed tackles and unforced errors put Rovers in front and despite Greg Wilde’s try regaining the lead for the Saints on the hour after good work from Ste Yates and Brad Ashurst, the respite was brief.
Rovers standoff regained the lead soon after but as the pace of the game started to take it toll, and when Jordan O’Neill had a try chalked off for being in front of Danny Yates’ grubber you sensed the game slipping away.
Rovers scored again but the simple kick which would have made the game safe was missed leaving the Saints with one last chance. That chance fell to Chris Webster who looked certain to score only to be stopped by a combination of Rovers bodies and the left hand upright.
Jordan O’Neill and Joe Bate led the line well, James Tilley put in a sterling 80 minute stint and Lewis Foster looked sharp off the bench. A team committing the number of errors and in the positions that the Saints did can’t hope to win a game but the saving grace is the host of chances created. When this team learns patience then it will be a formidable outfit.
Tries: James Maughan, Liam Slater 2, Mathew Beharrell, Aaron Ollett, Sam Watson.
Goals: Mathew Beharrell 5.
Tries: Mark Percival, Tom Tunstall, Danny Yates, Joe Bate.
Goals: Adam Barber 4.
Half Time: 16-12
Full Time: 28-34
1. Sam Watson, 2. James Maughan, 3. Liam Slater, 4. Rowan Colqhourn, 5. Richard Clayphan, 6. Mathew Beharrell, 7. Nathan Slater, 8. Callum Taylor, 20. Joe Gay, 10. Loyd Ofori, 11. Curtis Pullen, 12. Aaron Ollett, 13. Sonny Esslemont.
14. Callum Tolson, 15. Sam Jowsey, 16. Craig Smith, 17. Lewis Farr.
1. Greg Wilde, 2. Ste Yates, 3. Mark Percival, 4. Adam Barber, 5. Tom Tunstall, 6. Dom Speakman, 7. Danny Yates, 8. Joe Bate, 9. Callum Welsby, 10. Jordan O’Neill, 11. Connor Dwyer, 12. Alex Clare, 13. James Tilley.
14. Lewis Foster, 15. Chris Webster, 16. Adam Hesketh, 17. Brad Ashurst.