SAINTS were edged 35-28 by Warrington Wolves in a real classic at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Friday.
In a game that ebbed and flowed Saints were down and out, back in it, back out and then in it again before Lee Briers’ late drop goal.
A remarkable half saw Saints losing 18-0 after just 15 minutes before producing an amazing comeback to lead 22-18.
Royce Simmons’ men would’ve had feelings of deva vu as Warrington rattled up points a plenty with their first coming in the second minute through Michael Monaghan before Rhys Williams and Matt King looked like they’d put the nail in.
But once James Graham crossed Saints were on fire and tries from Lee Gaskell, Jamie Foster and Tony Puletua put them in control.
A truly amazing and breathtaking turnaround.
In the second half, Ben Westwood put Warrington ahead as both sides struggled to complete sets then tries from Paul Wood and Brett Hodgson gave Saints another mountain to climb.
It was 16 unanswered points – after 22 from Saints – and they had no answer until Tony Puletua set up a grandstand finish with his second of the night.
Briers added a drop goal with five minutes to go and that was enough to scrape home.
Saints welcomed back Scott Moore and Josh Perry into the 17 whilst Michael Shenton was replaced by Sia Soliola in the centres.
Paul Wood returning for Warrington has they looked for their first double over that Saints since 1993/4.
After last week’s defeat, Saints would have wanted to get a good pening set – but they couldn’t have got off to the worse possible start.
As Lee Gaskell cleared on the last tackle, his kick was charged down and Michael Monaghan chipped ahead and grounded to put Warrington ahead.
Brett Hodgson converting.
Then after three penalties were given away in a row, the video referee had a long hard look at a pass that went to the ground – but was finished off by Rhys McWilliams – giving the try despite two knock ons and a forward pass.
Hodgson converting once more.
Saints were on the rack and it got worse moments later as Briers’ kick to the corner was put down by Matt King. The Aussie out jumping Jamie Foster to give Saints a mountain to climb.
15 minutes in and 18-0 down.
But a couple of minutes later James Graham finally got Saints on the board with a characteristic run.
Foster tagging on the two.
From the restart Saints then gained another set of six and down the right, Lomax and Wilkin combined for TP and Sia to put Gaskell in.
Foster making it a six point game.
And then it got even better. Saints won a penalty and made it count – James Graham ploughing in for the field position to send it left through Meli and to Foster.
Six tries in 25 minutes, a fantastic advert for the sport….
Saints had dominated since the 17th minute and they eventually went ahead when Lomax took an awkward pass, danced through and fed Tony Puletua to send the away support bananas.
Foster making it 22-18 to cap a remarkable comeback.
Half Time: Warrington 18 Saints 22
Warrington started the half stronger and won a repeat set in the 45th minute before gaining a penalty right on Saints’ line.
But the defence held firm and Saints won a repeat set of their own after a penalty.
On 50 minutes James Roby hammered a 40:20 but the ball went to ground.
It was turning into whoever could complete their sets better as both sides were failing to complete their sets.
And after another penalty when they needed it – as seemed the case all night – Briers got the ball off to Westwood who drew the Wolves level.
Hodgson making it 22-24.
Minutes later the Wolves went ahead further and Saints were fuming. A penalty handed Warrington a set on Saints’ line and Myler put Wood in.
Jamie Foster sent the ball out on the full from the restart – his kick hitting the crossbar – and Brett Hodgson scored in the corner – with a clear obstruction – to lead 34-22.
Ironically, a carbon copy of that try was ruled out by the video referee in Saints 14-all draw with Bradford two weeks earlier.
In fact all of Warrington’s three second half scores may have been controversial.
But on the back of three penalties Saints were in it once again with TP ploughing over – Foster converting quickly.
But Lee Briers added a drop goal late on to make it a seven point game and it was just enough for them to edge the clash.
Tries: Monaghan, Williams, King, Westwood, Wood, Hodgson
Goals: Hodgson (5 from 6)
Tries: Graham, Gaskell, Foster, Puletua (2)
Goals: Foster (4 from 5)
REF: Richard Silverwood
1. Brett Hodgson; 3. Matt King, 4. Chris Bridge, 23. Ryan Atkins, 22. Rhys Williams; 6. Lee Briers, 7. Richie Myler; 8. Adrian Morley, 9. Michael Monaghan, 10. Gareth Carvell, 17. Simon Grix, 12. Ben Westwood, 13. Ben Harrison.
Subs: 14. Mickey Higham, 16. Paul Wood, 20. Matty Blythe, 26. David Solomona.
1. Paul Wellens; 28. Thomas Makinson, 4. Sia Soliola, 5. Francis Meli, 22. Jamie Foster; 25. Lee Gaskell, 20. Jonny Lomax; 10. James Graham, 9. James Roby, 15. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Chris Flannery, 11. Tony Puletua.
Subs: 7. Kyle Eastmond, 8. Josh Perry, 14. Scott Moore, 19. Andy Dixon.