SAINTS got their season off to the best possible start with a hard fought 34-24 win over London Broncos at the Stoop.
A late score from James Roby sealed a nervy victory in wintry conditions in the Capital after the lead changed hands several times.
Saints were down 18-16 down at half time as Broncos took full advantage of the chances that came their way.
Tries from Jonny Lomax and Andy Dixon had given Royce Simmons’ men a 14-6 advantage but Olsi Krasniqi and Chris Bailey got the home side in front.
In the second half, Jamie Foster put Saints ahead before Francis Meli and Michael Witt traded scores.
But James Roby made it safe late on.
Lance Hohaia and Anthony Laffranchi both started for the Saints with Mark Flanagan on the bench.
Hohaia moved to full back in place of the injured Paul Wellens whilst Lee Gaskell and Jonny Lomax made up the half back partnership.
Ade Gardner also returned to action for the first time since May last year as a substitute.
It’s all new in London as the Broncos have a new name and fielded no less than seven debutants at the Stoop.
Captain Craig Gower was at scrum half, experienced Michael Robertson and Shane Rodney made their bows and Michael Witt also started for his new club.
It was a cold start and that showed as both sides failed to control the ball on their first sets.
But after just five minutes, James Roby split open the Broncos’ defence to feed Jonny Lomax.
Jamie Foster with the conversion.
The lead was short-lived though as on the last tackle, Michael Witt saw space on the outside and sent over a perfect kick to Michael Robertson.
The winger then used his pace and momentum to cut through Saints’ defence.
Saints hit back when Lee Gaskell found Andy Dixon running an excellent line and the youngster made no mistake, twisting and turning out of a couple of tackles to race in from 50 yards.
Foster adding his second of the afternoon and then making it 14-6 with a penalty.
But the Broncos weren’t done and Olsi Krasniqi bulldozed his way through the defence.
Foster notched another penalty but London scored again straight afterwards, winning a repeat set and then slicing through the would be tacklers to lead – thanks to Chris Bailey.
In the second half, Saints went ahead once again and it was that man Roby who set it all up. He found a gap down the middle, passed to Gaskell who was just ankle tapped by the covering defence.
But he managed to get the ball out and Francis Meli fed Foster for his first of the year.
Meli then clocked one of his own but London came back once again through Michael Witt.
Saints could have made it safe at the end after they forced two drop outs, and they eventually did through the irrepressible Roby.
Tries: Robertson, Krasniqi, Bailey, Witt
Goals: Witt (4 from 4)
Tries: Lomax, Dixon, Foster, Meli, Roby
Goals: Foster (7 from 7)
REF: R Hicks
1. Luke Dorn; 5. Michael Robertson, 2. Liam Colbon, 3. Jamie O’Callaghan, 21. Kieran Dixon; 6. Michael Witt, 7. Craig Gower; 8. Antonio Kaufusi, 9. Chad Randall, 13. Tony Clubb, 12. Chris Bailey, 11. Shane Rodney, 17. Jason Golden,
Subs: 10. Mark Bryant, 14. Julien Rinaldi, 16. Chris Melling, 18. Olsi Krasniqi.
6. Lance Hohaia; 21. Tommy Makinson, 17. Gary Wheeler, 5. Francis Meli, 22. Jamie Foster; 20. Lee Gaskell, 7. Jonny Lomax; 14. Anthony Laffranchi, 9. James Roby, 10. Louie McCarthy Scarsbrook, 4. Sia Soliola, 19. Andy Dixon, 12. Jon Wilkin.
Subs: 2. Ade Gardner, 8. Josh Perry, 15. Mark Flanagan, 16. Paul Clough.
A short audio match report of this game can be downloaded here.