SAINTS secured third place in the Engage Super League with a relatively comfortable 31-6 win over Salford City Reds.
An unexpectantly rough and tough first half saw Saints leading 13-6 thanks to tries from Sia Soliola and Tommy Makinson.
James Graham had a blatant score ruled out – and was sinbinned for his protestations – and less than 60 seconds later Ray Cashmire went the same way after he floored James Roby.
Salford were good value for their early lead as Danny Williams cut inside to send the Reds delirious. But Saints took hold of the match and deserved their slender advantage at the break.
In the second half, Francis Meli and Matty Ashurst increased the advantage before Lee Gaskell’s kick return sealed it in the final stages.
Saints welcomed back Tommy Makinson and James Graham but were missing Jon Wilkin through suspension. Scott Hale came off the bench for only his third appearance in the Red Vee.
James Roby made his 30th appearance of the season – the Club’s only ever present.
Salford began brightly and were rewarded when Danny Williams finished off a quick handling move to plunge over in the corner.
Daniel Holdsworth capping a return to the Reds with a fantastic conversion off the touchline.
Saints thought they’d hit back when Paul Wellens was held up then James Graham touched down – but were denied twice by Phil Bentham; Graham sinbinned for protesting.
Moments later Ray Cashmire was given 10 for smashing James Roby – and Saints punished the indiscretion with Sia Soliola notching his fifth of the season.
Francis Meli burst down the left after Paul Clough’s excellent offload – only for the ball to be knocked out of Saints’ possession moments later.
But with another set of six the home side were always in control and as the ball went right, Tommy Makinson squeezed over in the corner with three on him.
Saints threatened with a switch-kick on 35 minutes – forcing their second drop out of the first 40 – and almost profited again but Jamie Foster’s score was pulled back for obstruction.
But right on the hooter – and a reward for Saints’ tenacity – Jonny Lomax cracked over a drop goal on an angle to give his side a 13-6 lead.
Francis Meli extended Saints’ advantage in bizarre circumstances. On the last Saints kept the ball alive and put in what looked to be an innocuous kick to the corner.
But Stefan Ratchford decided to let Sia Soliola pick up the ball when it was a foot in front of him and from there the ball went right, Meli picked it up and scored. What made the decision even harder to bear for Salford was that Scott Moore looked to have knocked on a couple of plays before!
Anyway, it counted and Foster added the conversion.
Seconds later, Matty Ashurst went through a massive gap to notch Saints fourth of the game and his fourth of the season.
The try killed off any hopes Salford had of getting back into the match and Saints were always comfortable heading into the final stages; Lee Gaskell returning a Salford chip through in the final stages.
That led to plenty of dropped ball and missed chances from both sides – but secured Saints third place in the league.
Tries: Soliola, Makinson, Meli, Ashurst, Gaskell
Goals: Foster (5 from 5)
Goals: Holdsworth (1 from 1)
REF: Phil Bentham
1. Paul Wellens; 28. Tom Makinson, 3. Michael Shenton, 5. Francis Meli, 22. Jamie Foster; 6. Leon Pryce, 20. Jonny Lomax; 10. James Graham, 9. James Roby, 15. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 4. Sia Soliola, 19. Andrew Dixon, 14. Scott Moore.
Subs: 16. Paul Clough, 18. Matty Ashurst, 25. Lee Gaskell, 29. Scott Hale.
1. Luke Patten; 2. Jodie Broughton, 5. Ashley Gibson, 20. Sean Gleeson, 30. Danny Williams; 6. Stefan Ratchford, 7. Daniel Holdsworth; 8. Ray Cashmere, 14. Matty Smith, 19. Ryan Boyle, 3. Mark Henry, 11. Vinnie Anderson, 13. Stephen Wild.
Subs: 9. Wayne Godwin, 10. Lee Jewitt, 15. Luke Adamson, 17. Iafeta Paleaaesina.