JAMIE Foster kicked a last gasp conversion as Saints dramatically beat Castleford 22-20 on Monday – and went top of the league in the process.
Down 20-12 with seven minutes to go Ade Gardner finished off a fine team move to hand his team a lifeline before Francis Meli scored with less than three seconds on the clock – and what a score it was.
Talk about never say die!
On the last tackle James Graham took the ball forward, passed to Jon Wilkin who sent out a flying spinning ball to Meli.
The big man then cut back inside and ploughed over to send Saints into raptures.
And then Jamie Foster, around 10 yards in from the left, scooped the conversion through the posts for a fantastic finale.
Second half scores from Rangi Chase and Jordan Thompson had wiped out Saints slender advantage at half time – and had set the Tigers up for the win.
Royce Simmons men had to work hard for their 12-8 lead, despite having most of the possession.
After both sides tested each other out, Tom Armstrong forged his side ahead.
But Stuart Jones pulled one back almost immediately before Armstrong grabbed his second just before the hooter sounded.
Rangi Chase – who has been in excellent form – put Cas ahead early in the second half – then Jordan Thompson stretched it further before Saints’ heeded ignored the curtain call.
After a bruising encounter with Wigan, Saints made a couple of changes from the Good Friday team. Tommy Makinson came in for Paul Wellens whilst Jon Wilkin moved from the row into the stand-off slot.
Andrew Dixon was named on the bench and Tom Armstrong came in for his first appearance of the season.
Saints tested Castleford early doors when James Roby broke through following Tony Puletua’s offload.
Castleford then returned the favour but their high ball went dead.
On 15 minutes, Jamie Foster took a nice ball from Jon Wilkin to get over – but Phil Bentham correctly ruled it out for a forward pass.
Nice to see they do spot them now and again!
And following a drop out and subsequent pressure, a nice cut out pass from Sia Soliola saw Tom Armstrong on angle to put Saints ahead.
Foster with his 45th shoe of the season.
But Castleford hit back through Stuart Jones – cutting back on the inside after a cute offload – and then Kurt Dixon tied it up.
And on the half hour mark, Tom Armstrong caught Rangi Chase late to give away a penalty – Dixon duly adding the two points.
But Saints hit back – rather fortuitously – through Tom Armstrong. Jonny Lomax broke through and when the ball was recycled to Sia Soliola it went to ground. Saints then collected and shifted it left to Tom Armstrong burrowed in from close range.
Phil Bentham ruling an attempted strip.
Foster off the touchline to make it 12-8
Half Time: Saints 12 Castleford 8
Rangi Chase took full advantage of an early Saints error to pull his side level – with Dixon tagging on the extras to put Tigers up.
Saints should’ve hit back almost immediately, but TP’s offload just couldn’t find hands.
And seconds later excellent Castleford tackling put Jamie Foster in touch.
Both sides were looking a little jaded following their Easter weekend exploits – but the Tigers were making more yards with their sets of six and that meant Saints were coming out of their own 20 each time.
And on a day for perfect handling, Saints were off the pace and putting far too much ball to ground.
On 65 minutes such an error was punished. Saints dropped the ball in the middle of the park and stood off Castleford in defence; Jordan Thompson profiting and Dixon making it an eight-point game.
And it got worse as two minutes later Jonny Lomax left the field with an ankle injury.
But Saints gave themselves a real chance with a try from Ade Gardner.
Quite simply, the ball was kept alive and the winger did the rest.
Then, on the last tackle and with seconds on the clock they went and levelled it up.
Graham and Wilkin combined with Francis Meli for the dramatic and sensational finale.
Foster’s kick sealing the win. – and putting Saints top of the tree.
Tries: Armstrong (2), Gardner, Meli
Goals: Foster (3 from 4)
Tries: Jones, Chase, Thompson
Goals: Dixon (4 from 4)
REF: Phil Bentham
28. Tommy Makinson; 2. Ade Gardner, 3. Michael Shenton, 5. Francis Meli, 22. Jamie Foster; 12. Jon Wilkin, 20. Jonny Lomax; 10. James Graham, 9. James Roby, 15. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 4. Sia Soliola, 18. Matty Ashurst, 11. Tony Puletua.
Subs: 14. Scott Moore, 19. Andrew Dixon, 21. Shaun Magennis, 24. Tom Armstrong.
1. Richard Mathers; 2. Kirk Dixon, 22. Jordan Thompson, 4. Joe Arundel, 5. Richard Owen; 6. Rangi Chase, 7. Danny Orr; 8. Paul Jackson, 16. Adam Milner, 10. Craig Huby, 14. Stuart Jones, 24. Oliver Holmes, 20. Martin Aspinwall.
Subs: 9. Ryan Hudson, 11. Jacob Emmitt, 12. Steve Snitch, 13. Brett Ferres.